Political Science 540, American National Institutions, Spring 2000

Prof. Frank Baumgartner


Questions and discussion topics for week 3, January 26:


Readings: Cohen, March, and Olsen; Kingdon.


Choose one of these topics for a five page paper if you choose to do one this week. In any case, come to class prepared to discuss the following:


1.      The garbage can model of decision-making was developed in large part with reference to how decisions are made within universities. Discuss. Are there contexts of decision-making where such a model would be particularly inappropriate? What elements of a decision-making context need to be observed before you would want to apply this model?

2.      Kingdon applies a simplified version of the garbage can model to the US government. Are there any areas of governmental decision-making where a more straightforward set of processes might take place, or is this model applicable everywhere? For what parts of government, or for what issue-areas, might it be most and least applicable?

3.      Kingdon’s book is based on a wide range of evidence. Explain exactly what he did and what types of evidence are most useful for which theoretical purposes.

4.      What do you make of the policy primeval soup idea? In what ways is the process of linking a problem and a solution similar to natural selection? What makes a particular coupling a success at a given time, according to this view?

5.      What are the range of factors that may cause attention to a given problem to increase or decrease? What is the importance of objective indicators here?

6.      Kingdon puts relatively little emphasis on the role of the media in his discussion. What are the reasons for this?

7.      How does Kingdon’s book illustrate the importance of divided governmental structures, federalism, separation of powers, and other elements of US constitutional design? Would the process be similar in other settings, or does it depend on the complications of the US system?


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