Policy Debates Research Paper Starter

Policy Debates

(Research Starters)

This article focuses on economic policy debates. It provides an analysis of the main themes of current economic policy debates, the stakeholders involved in economic policy debates, and the root causes of economic policy debates. The role of values, ideology, and resource allocation choices in economic policy debates is introduced. The article provides examples of the types of organizations engaged in economic policy research and debate. The connection between policy debate and the economic policy-making process is discussed. In addition, the environment versus the economic policy debate is addressed.

Keywords Competitiveness; Congress; Economic Growth; Economic Policy; Federal Government; Federal Register; Fiscal Policy; Globalization; Ideology; Inflation; Monetary Policy; Policy Cycle; Policy Debates; Policy-Making Process; Public Policy; Public Problems; Regulations; Resource Allocation; Rulemaking; Stakeholders; Values


Economic policies, which refer to government policies for maintaining economic growth and tax revenues, affect numerous stakeholders, including politicians, policy-makers, businesses, the electorate, the regional and global environment, and the global population at large. Stakeholders, who are the individuals or groups most likely to gain or lose from the success or failure of an economic, social, and environmental system, are often in conflict with each other over the perceived need for a policy or the expected outcome of a policy initiative. Stakeholders debate the likely outcomes of implementing economic policies controlling federal spending, economic growth, labor policies, the environment, and business regulation. Stakeholders engage in policy debates to protect their interests and further their perspectives and positions. Economic policy debates incorporate resource allocation and value choices. Economic policy debates are a ubiquitous feature of government policymaking. Economists, policymakers, and other related stakeholders participate in policy debates as one part of the overall policymaking process. In the United States, public involvement in public policy debates is considered to be a fundamental part of the democratic rulemaking or policy-making process.

Public Policy

Economic policies, a type of public policy, are created to solve public problems such as unemployment or budget deficits. Public policy refers to the basic policy or set of policies that serve as the foundation for public laws. Public policy is often characterized as a social goal, enabling objective, or social solution. The public policy process is a problem-solving activity that solves or resolves a problem or conflict in society. Public policy, requested by society and enacted by government, unites and mediates the relationship between society and government. Public policy is created within a specific historical context, socio-cultural context, budget, and political system. It encompasses and regulates nearly all areas of human and social behavior. One particularly large body of public policy concerns the economy. Economic policies are created and implemented to maintain economic growth and tax revenues.

Reasons for Policy Debates

Policy debates arise for the following reasons: a lack of information about the public problems and proposed policy solutions; contested social goals; and disagreement about economic theories that inform the policy. Policy debates, even ones over theory, are often informed by stakeholder values. Economic theories are not value-free. Economic theories are based, in part, on value judgments and social goals. Ultimately, policy debates may arise from differences in worldviews, ethics, principles, values, and factual interpretations (Tiemstra, 1998). National economic policy debates are often framed in terms of national ideologies and national values such as free enterprise and the market economy. For example, legislators use "free enterprise" concepts in congressional debates on major economic policy proposals to appeal to popular sentiment. Policymakers actively invoke the political symbolism of free enterprise/capitalism and constitutional democracy to create support for their policy initiative (Musolof, 1998).

Common Topics of Economic Policy Debates

Common topics for economic policy debates in the United States include the following: economic scarcity; public choice; opportunity cost; supply and demand; economics and the environment; government and the economy; income distribution and poverty; labor markets; market failure, regulation and public choice; monopolistic competition; monopoly; oligopoly; utility and consumer choice; employment, unemployment, and inflation; fiscal policy; monetary policy; money and the financial system; productivity and growth; taxes, spending, and deficits; comparative economic systems; developing and transitional economies; international finance; and international trade (Kane, 2004).

This article explores the main themes of economic policy debate occurring today in the United States, the main actors in the U.S. and global policy debates, and the root causes of economic policy debates. The following section provides an overview of the main organizations engaged in economic policy research and debate. This section serves as the foundation for later discussion of the connection between policy debate and the economic policy making process. In addition, the environment versus the economy policy debate is addressed.

Locating Economic Policy Debates

Independent Policy Research Centers

Multiple stakeholders, including politicians, policy-makers, businesses interests, the electorate, and the global population at large, debate the economic policies controlling federal spending, economic growth, labor policies, the environment, and regulation. The most active and vocal actors in economic policy debates are policy research institutes such as the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR).

  • The Roe Institute, part of the conservative Heritage Foundation, conducts research on economic issues such as federal spending, economic growth, labor policies, the environment, and regulation. The Roe Institute prepares policy reports and distributes them to policymakers, the media, and related stakeholders. These policy reports are intended to brief policymakers on a wide range of economic issues and encourage policy debate.
  • The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think-tank founded in 1986, is dedicated to facilitating public debate about strategies to achieve a more prosperous and fair economy. The Economic Policy Institute focuses its efforts on economic policy affecting the interests of low and middle-income workers. For example, the Economic Policy Institute engages in policy research and debate in areas such as global competition, wage equality, living standards, labor markets, government and the economy, globalization and trade, and education. Specific policy concerns are trends in wages, incomes, and prices; part-time and contingent work; welfare reform; labor market problems; work organization; budget, tax, and fiscal policies; health care; education; the consumer price index; Medicare; Social Security; rural and urban policies; state-level economic development strategies; trade and global finance; comparative international economic performance; the health of manufacturing and other key sectors; competitiveness, jobs, and the environment; and urban sprawl. The Economic Policy Institute makes policy recommendations to policymakers and related stakeholders based on the findings of its research.
  • The Center for Economic and Policy Research is a network of over 700 primarily European researchers. The London Center for Economic and Policy Research focuses on the following policy topics: migration; the European Central Bank (ECB) and the euro; the International monetary Fund (IMF); World Bank; World Trade Organization (WTO); European Monetary Union; global financial crises and Asia; monetary policy; globalization, regionalism, and trade; economic transformation of central and eastern Europe; economic integration; European Union enlargement; economic growth and fluctuations; the transformation of European financial markets; European competition policy; European labor markets; and regulation of European network industries. The Center for Economic and Policy Research facilitates policy debate throughout the European Union.

Academic Policy Research Institutes

In addition to independent policy research centers, numerous colleges and universities in the United States and around the world have founded economic policy groups and think tanks to lead, focus, and participate in economic policy debate at the national and global level. Examples of academic policy research institutes include the New School's Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and the Princeton Center for Economic Policy Studies.

  • The New School's Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (CEPA) focuses on economic growth, employment, and inequality in the U.S. economy. Economic growth research and debate includes topics such as outsourcing and structural change; U.S. fiscal policy; demand and growth in developing countries; trade models; new labor market indicators; U.S. trade balance; European unemployment; standard of living; and inequality and the U.S. trade deficit.
  • The Stanford...

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