There is widespread pessimism about the performance of American national government over the last 35 years. This course examines this gloomy conventional wisdom, exploring its analytical and ideological roots and its critique of American political institutions and public policy. The class then interrogates it, first by examining contrary arguments and evidence and then in a series of student-led case studies of government performance in specific policy areas. Students produce major term papers that assess the successes and failures of some public policy. The course aims at helping students to come to grips with the complexities of policymaking, the strengths and weaknesses of national governmental institutions, and the extent to which the pessimism that marks so much of contemporary political discourse is justified.
Prerequisites: PG 101.