Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Initiatives and Fiscal Policy

The first article, “Dimensions of State Politics, Economics, and Public Policy,” by Sharkansky and Hofferbert used factor analysis to describe the relationship between various political, policy and socio-economic dimensions. This article was very hard for me to follow, as I do not have a good grounding in factor analysis and all its implications. However, one sentence that struck me as important was in the conclusion.

“While these findings add to the inquiry data political and economic determinants of public policies, they offer little encouragement to those who would seek to expand the level and scope of public services by manipulating one political or structural characteristic of state government.” (879)

This statement seems to address itself to the structural characteristics that were described in the article: voter turn-out, party competition or apportionment. However, this statement could also be used to describe the initiative process, because the initiative process can be described as a structural characteristic of state government. If the information and data that Sharkansky and Hofferbert used is correct, then the statement would seem to be that you cannot change the level and scope of public services by manipulating the initiative process.
That statement seems to be something at Camobreco would agree with. In his article, “Preferences, Fiscal Policies, and the Initiative Process” Camobreco examines whether the initiative process produces fiscal and taxation policies that are closer to the views of the median voter than would be produced in a system without the initiative process. Camobreco, like Sharkansky and Hofferbert, is trying to find a tie between the political, policy and economic aspects of state government.
Camobreco finds no link between the initiative process and the policy opinions of the median voter when the initiative deals with fiscal or taxation policy. This seems to mirror the findings above. This requires the assumption that changing the level or scope of a public service can be expressed in terms of fiscal and taxation policy. This is clearly a link that Camobreco finds in his study of taxation and fiscal policy burdens and redistribution. So Camobreco studied the initiative process as a structural characteristic of state government. Through those studies he found that there is not a change to the level and scope of public services by manipulating one aspect of a structural characteristic of state government (the initiative process). These two articles are in agreement. An additional point that both articles make is that the status of their theories may depend on what type of policy is being studied.

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