Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: Power, Knowledge, and Politics

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Book Review: Power, Knowledge, and Politics

This book examines the different methods that state legislatures around the country conduct non-partisan research. The author interviewed legislators and staff around the country and examined these offices. It was found legislators use and place high value on this research. (Democrats were found to value nonpartisan research even more than Republicans. Always suspected Republicans values actual facts less.) Yet, this research was also found to have limited influence on final policy decisions.

It was discovered these offices are far from being monolithic and vary widely amongst the states. The political and interest group influences that exist on legislators are found to be significant factors in how the legislatures organize their non-partisan research. Yet, states that create larger nonpartisan research offices are more apt to use their research. The book found that the ability of the nonpartisan research office to effectively communicate its research findings made that research more likely to be influential. Less important was the quality of the research. Research has to be noticed in order to have an impact, regardless of how good it is.

The book condemns the lack of empirical data in analyzing how policies are developed. The book further notes that few researchers have attempted to connect policy research into policy development, arguing that many legislators only seek policy research to justify the policy positions they have already taken. Sometimes legislators use nonpartisan research as a tool for delaying taking a position on an issue by using the research process as an excuse for not reaching a decision.

There is a scholarly debate about the use and effectiveness of non-partisan policy analysis. It was noted that many non-partisan research offices, as they try to remain devoid of political concerns, tend towards more traditional analysis that often fails to develop the more innovative policy solutions that partisan research efforts create. Some argue that social science analysis will always include bias and some argue researchers should stop pretending there are no views or values in their analysis. Some argue that there are so many variables, alternatives, and unknown factors involved in policy analysis that any analysis is hopelessly doomed to never fully inform policy makers as to how their decisions will make impacts.

The type of research found to impress legislators is that showing that something has worked in other states. While it was found legislators pay attention mostly to other legislators, administration officials, and interest group communications, nonpartisan legislative research often reaches legislators indirectly when cited through these sources.

The book found these nonpartisan research agencies vary from three professional staff members and no clerical staff to 362 staff members and 120 clerical staff. Their mean budgets are $4.2 million and their median budgets are $2.2 million. Massachusetts does not have a nonpartisan research office, although there are strong partisan research staffs and a business financed private research organization that is often used by Massachusetts legislators. It is noted that Montana and Kentucky, who have citizen legislatures, as well as California, with a full time legislature, all have significant nonpartisan research offices.

This study found that larger sized and more influential nonpartisan legislative research offices were more likely to occur in states with more think tanks and in state with larger legislative staff sizes in other offices. Interviews of nonpartisan research staff note that state legislatures have become increasingly partisan over recent years. Most of their research is available to the public, although California considers its requests from legislators confidential and thus its research is not provided to the public.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares