Political Science 540, American National Institutions, Spring 2000

Prof. Frank Baumgartner


Questions and discussion topics for week 7, February 22:


Readings: Cox and McCubbins, Legislative Leviathan


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. In Part I of their book Cox and McCubbins lay out the subgovernment thesis. State this thesis clearly. What is the alternative to this model of policymaking that they provide? List the tests that they devise to distinguish between the two. Which of these tests are most convincing.
  2. Consider question one. Rather than listing the tests they provide, think more broadly: Are there only two models of policymaking (subgovernment or party control), or do the authors ignore some other possibilities? What would those be? Would any of these be normatively more appealing to the other two? More accurate?
  3. Consider question one again. Are the tests that Cox and McCubbins provide the only logical ones, or are there other ways to get at this? Propose some alternative empirical tests.
  4. Thinking of the literature we’ve been reading lately (Aldrich, Krehbiel, articles on committees last week), discuss the emphasis on what Cox and McCubbins call the subgovernment model (or committee power) v. its supposed antidote: party government. Why is this laid out as the choice? Is it normatively clear which alternative is better? Are these the only alternatives? Don’t only give your opinion, but also discuss why the literature has been framed in this manner.
  5. As Cox and McCubbins describe, political scientists have long had a love affair with strong political parties. Explain what they mean by this, and explain why this is so.
  6. Getting back to the specifics of Cox and McCubbins, explain why this book has been so influential. After giving them credit and explaining the reasons for this impact, give a detailed suggestion for how the next author could do better. I emphasize a detailed proposal, not just a general idea.