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case western reserve university

PUBLIC POLICY
PROGRAM

 

Undergraduate Public Policy Minor Program

CWRU’s Public Policy Program is intended to provide a supplementary minor useful to majors across the university. Because the disciplinary base of public policy analysis is eclectic, so are the requirements for the minor. Undergraduate or graduate courses with public policy content are offered through the departments of anthropology, geological sciences, history, political science, and sociology in the college of arts and sciences; through the Department of Economics and other departments of the Weatherhead School of Management; through the Schools of Law, Medicine, and Nursing; and through the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. Students can engage with policy issues through both courses and the extracurricular programming of the Center for Policy Studies and other university bodies.

The 15 credit hour requirements are in four categories listed below. Substitutions can be made at the discretion of the Minor Advisor. For example, if a course is not available in a timely manner, the Advisor will suggest a replacement.

It consists of 15 credit hours:

A. The Policy Process (3 credit hours): One course selected from386, 383, or 306

  • POSC 386: Making Public Policy (3 credit hours)

    Politics is about who wins, who loses, and why. Policy, by contrast, is often depicted as more "neutral;" policies are the means through which political decisions are carried out. In this class, we examine the notion that policy is the rational, impartial counterpart to the political arena. We will ask: How are public policies made? Why do some issues make it on to the agenda, while others do not? Can we separate facts from values, or are both always contested? We will examine how decision-making in a group introduces distinct challenges for policymaking. The course focuses on widely applicable themes of policymaking, drawing on both domestic and international examples.
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    POSC 383: Health Politics and Politics in the U.S. (3 credit hours)

    The debates about "Obamacare" reveal deep divisions in the United States about the role of government in the health care system. Yet governments are deeply involved in many ways, ranging from local public health regulation, to states licensing medical professionals, to the federal government's funding of research and both federal and state health insurance programs. Health care is at least a sixth of the national economy, a far larger share than in any other country. Ironically, the United States both funds a smaller share of health care through public programs than in any other rich democracy and, because the system is so expensive, spends a larger share of its economy on public finance of health care than in all but a few other countries. What explains government's roles in U.S. health care? Any answers must address both the peculiarities of the health care field and the dynamics of U.S. politics. So this course will provide an introduction to health policy issues and the health policy community, and an analysis of the politics of policy conflict.

    POSC 306: Interest Groups in the Policy Process (3 credit hours)

    This course focuses on how interests deal with the government, or governments. It has a particular focus on nonprofit organizations, for two reasons. First, one section of the course will consist of students from the Mandel Center masters program on nonprofit organizations. Second, nonprofits nicely present two facets of interest representation, which we might call policy advocacy and organizational advocacy. By policy advocacy, I mean efforts to change the actions of government mainly in order to achieve some desired change in the world. By organizational advocacy, I mean efforts to get some government to do something that helps an organization- or not do something that would hurt the organization. These two efforts can be much the same if the purpose of the organization is to change policy – but that is often not the case. One way to think about government action is to view it as a “policy process.” The policy process includes not just choosing purposes (should the federal government expand access to health insurance?) but implementing them (how will new health insurance exchanges be set up, and who will get the contract for the computer system to enroll people in Ohio?). It is important to understand how governments decide – the policy process – as much as the tactics for advocacy. Different decisions are made in different ways, and so require different skills and tactics to represent interests. This course can only begin to introduce you to the questions you would ask and factors to consider if you are ever involved in representing an interest or cause to governments. Along the way, you may also add to your understanding of how the American political system works. Textbooks talk about “democracy” and whether the U.S. system fits some ideal. That’s not an interesting question: of course it is far from the classic image of a democracy and far from ideal. The interesting questions involve who is served, how well, and why. Who participates, to what effect? What resources are needed to participate effectively, and do some interests have advantages because they have more of the most useful resources?

B. Economic Analysis

  • Econ 102: Principle of Microeconomics (3 credit hours)
  • This course is an introduction to microeconomic theory, providing a foundation for future study in economics. In particular, it addresses how individuals and businesses make choices concerning the use of scarce resources, how prices and incomes are determined in competitive markets, and how market power affects the prices and quantities of goods available to society. We will also examine the impact of government intervention in the economy.

C. Policy making institutions: One course selected from HSTY 256, 358 POSC 308, 310, 323, 384, 385

  • HSTY 256: American Political History (3 credit hours)

    From the origins of American politics in the colonial period to the present. The Revolution and Constitutional debate; presidential politics and leadership; voters and voting patterns; Congress and the courts. Emphasis both on the ideas that animated American politics and on the relation of politics to society.

    HSTY 358: America Since 1940 (3 credit hours)

    A comprehensive introduction to the recent history of the Unites States, organized around changes in national policy and politics. Special emphasis on the impact of World War II and the Cold War; the expansion of the federal government through the Great Society and beyond; the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements; challenges to the legitimacy of politics; and the efforts to maintain economic growth.

    POSC 308: The American Presidency (3 credit hours)

    This course will study the most puzzling institution in American government. It is puzzling first because there is a mismatch between the role that both the public and presidents appear to expect presidents to play in American government, and the quite limited powers that were established by the constitutional design. The president’s role in government far exceeds what could be expected from reading the constitution or The Federalist Papers. Why? But the president is also blamed for events over which he (so far it has been a he) has little control. Why? In short, there is a puzzle of presidential power. What are its sources, what are its extent and limits, and to what extent can presidents expand or (if unlucky and unskillful) reduce their influence?

    The second puzzle involves what we mean by “the presidency.” There are at least three levels. One is the presidency as an institution, a bundle of powers and responsibilities, within a system of “separated institutions sharing powers.” One is the presidency as a set of organizations, sometimes called the “presidential branch” of government. The presidential branch is very different from the executive branch of government. It includes bureaucracies, such as the Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council, that work directly for the president and, in theory, to help whoever holds the office manage relationships with Congress, the federal agencies, the public, and other forces that influence what government does. The third level of the presidency is the individuals who hold the office. Their psychology and skills have major effects on how the presidency influences American government at any point in time. Hence we cannot understand the presidency without thinking about the set of powers, the organizations, and the person – but those are also quite different topics.

    POSC 310: The Legislative Process (3 credit hours)

    Legislative, representative, and other functions of Congress and state legislatures; legislative relations with the executive and with private interests; powers and limitations of the legislature as a policy-making institution.

    POSC 323: Judicial Politics (3 credit hours)

    Rejecting the view that judges mechanically apply the law, the study of judicial politics seeks to understand the behavior of judges as political actors with policy goals. Topics include judicial selection and socialization, judicial policy change, judicial strategy (especially the strategic interaction of judges on multi-judge panels), the interaction of courts in hierarchical judicial systems, the policy impact of judicial decisions, and the courts’ interactions with coordinate branches of government (the executive, Congress, state governments, state courts). Primary focus will be on the federal judiciary, with some discussion of state judicial systems.

    POSC 384: Ethics and Public Policy (3 credit hours)

    Evaluation of ethical arguments in contemporary public policymaking discourse. That is, approaches to evaluating not only the efficiency of policy (Will this policy achieve its end for the least cost?) but also the ethics of policy (Are a policy’s intended ends ethically justified or “good,” and are our means to achieve those ends moral or “just”?). Overview of political ideologies that supply U.S. political actors with their ethical or moral arguments when proposing and implementing public policy, followed by an application of these differing perspectives to selected policy areas such as welfare, euthanasia, school choice, drug laws, censorship, or others.

    POSC 385: U.S. Bureaucratic Politics (3 credit hours)

    Bureaucracy is one of civilization's most important inventions. It is a way of coordinating very large numbers of people so as to do work, make decisions, and exercise power. Without it, much of modern life would be impossible. Yet "bureaucracy" is normally seen, in public discussion, as a problem, instead of as a solution. This course will consider both the reasons for and pathologies of bureaucratic organization. Its special focus is bureaucracy in American government. The course therefore will provide some introduction to the study of American public administration, but with special emphasis on how the work and performance of public bureaucracies in the United States is shaped by the specific tasks they are given and the distribution of power in the American political arena.

D. Two courses (6 credit hours) within a particular field of public policy, selected with the approval of the advisor. The listings under “Field and Course Examples” on the Policy Program website give examples of fields and of courses that could be selected within a field.