The Government Taketh Away

cover art
352 pp., 7 x 10
ISBN: 9780878409013 (0878409017)

352 pp., 7 x 10
ISBN: 9780878409020 (0878409025)

April 2003
LC: 2002014713

American Governance and Public Policy series


Table of Contents

The Government Taketh Away
The Politics of Pain in the United States and Canada
Leslie A. Pal and R. Kent Weaver, Editors

Selected as a 2003 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title
Democratic government is about making choices. Sometimes those choices involve the distribution of benefits. At other times they involve the imposition of some type of loss—a program cut, increased taxes, or new regulatory standards. Citizens will resist such impositions if they can, or will try to punish governments at election time. The dynamics of loss imposition are therefore a universal—if unpleasant—element of democratic governance. The Government Taketh Away examines the repercussions of unpopular government decisions in Canada and the United States, the two great democratic nations of North America.

Pal, Weaver, and their contributors compare the capacities of the U.S. presidential system and the Canadian Westminster system to impose different types of losses: symbolic losses (gun control and abortion), geographically concentrated losses (military base closings and nuclear waste disposal), geographically dispersed losses (cuts to pensions and to health care), and losses imposed on business (telecommunications deregulation and tobacco control). Theory holds that Westminster-style systems should, all things being equal, have a comparative advantage in loss imposition because they concentrate power and authority, though this can make it easier to pin blame on politicians too. The empirical findings of the cases in this book paint a more complex picture. Westminster systems do appear to have some robust abilities to impose losses, and US institutions provide more opportunities for loss-avoiders to resist government policy in some sectors. But in most sectors, outcomes in the two countries are strikingly similar.

The Government Taketh Away is essential for the scholar and students of public policy or comparative policy. It is also an important book for the average citizen who wants to know more about the complexities of living in a democratic society where the government can give-but how it can also, sometimes painfully, "taketh away."
Leslie A. Pal is professor and director, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University.

R. Kent Weaver is professor of public policy and government at Georgetown University; senior fellow in Governmental Studies at The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC; and the coeditor of Do Institutions Matter?
Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors
"A remarkable volume . . . First, the contributions contained within it are uniformly admirable as scholarship without being cursed with the obscurantist and obsequious lingo that too often renders such tomes either impenetrable or unappealing to the attentive and intelligent public. Second, they provide genuinely informative and compelling explanations of why public policy works (or doesn't work) the way it does. Finally, by giving sufficient detail about selected policy areas to make them intelligible, and then by adding informed reflections and cogent conclusions, they provide citizens, public officials and politicians with the intellectual tools necessary to comprehend problems that may be only apparently insoluble."—The Innovation Journal

"A fine collection that deserves wide attention. The theoretical framework is systematic and thorough, the selection of policy fields is unusually logical, and the case studies are all both rich in substance and tightly focused on the common unifying questions about loss imposition and policy formation more generally."—Robert Young, professor of political science and codirector of the Political Economy Research Group, University of Western Ontario

Table of Contents

1. The Politics of Pain
Leslie A. Pal and R. Kent Weaver

2. Cutting Old-Age Pensions
R. Kent Weaver

3. Controlling Health Care Costs for the Aged
Carolyn Hughes Tuohy

4. Telecommunications Deregulation
Richard J. Schultz and Andrew Rich

5. Tobacco Control
Donley T. Studlar

6. Closing Military Bases
Lilly J. Goren and P. Whitney Lackenbauer

7. Siting Nuclear Waste
Barry G. Rabe

8. Gun Control
Leslie A. Pal

9. Abortion
Raymond Tatalovich

10. Conclusions
Leslie A. Pal and R. Kent Weaver