Reclaiming the State: Representative Government and Public Policy Access
Marilyn E. Lashley
Over the last decade, many journalists, policy analysts, and pundits offered comparative analyses of the differential impacts of public policy, and implicitly or explicitly answered the question posed by this book: Has government retreated from the role of liberal states? Ignoring the traditional definition of liberal state -- as limited government -- and presuming the United States more "conservative," in the 1980s many analysts passed judgment and evaluated specific public policy initiatives as though there were some commonly agreed-upon standard of "liberalism" from which the government retreated. That was not the case then, and it is not the case now.
All too often it is assumed that there are commonly held notions and definitions of liberalism and conservatism when few in the academies, let alone policy decision makers or voters, agree upon the meanings of these terms. Often obscure in contemporary discourse on federalism, government interference, and regulation, the proper role of the state in exercising governance is still contested. By neglecting to place public policy debates in their broader ideological context, evaluations of policy outcomes often are rendered incomplete, if not seriously flawed and misleading. Such political labels are of questionable value because they oversimplify complex dis