Reviewed by: Don R. Kelly, University of Texas Arlington, USA
Refreshing, straightforward, and easy to understand, Volker Krause and Zachary Smith capture the essence of policy comparison in their book, U.S. Public Policy in an International Context. Dr. Krause and Dr. Smith are both recognized authors and university professors. Dr. Krause is a professor at Eastern Michigan University and has published articles with International Politics, Peace Research, Social Science Quarterly, International Interactions, and Conflict Management and Peace Science journals. Dr. Smith is a professor at Northern Arizona University. He has authored/edited over 20 books and has written numerous articles on policy and administration.
This educational resource provides an overview of public policies through eleven book chapters, providing an extraordinary overview of public policies and policy development processes in the United States, including a comparison of United States public policy with similar public policies in an international context. Unlike other books of its kind, the authors of U.S. Public Policy in an International Context purposefully utilize the United States as the country of reference for comparison. Policies for comparison include election, criminal justice, health care, social welfare, air and water pollution control, alternative energy, and trade policies. Countries of comparison include India, China, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Japan. It should be noted that the selection of countries for comparison was not random. The authors selected these countries based on the country’s importance in the world, media coverage, and public policy exposure. Selected countries are a good choice as all the comparison countries are key players in global affairs.
An insightful Chapter one introduction draws the reader into the public policy arena by defining the concept of public policy and explaining how public policy is necessary to ensure citizen access to public goods, private goods, common pool goods, pure public goods, and toll goods. The chapter also makes justification for the enactment of public policy due to market failure and interest group pressure. In addition, the chapter discusses various types of public policy, including distributive, regulatory, competitive regulatory, protective regulatory, redistributive, substantive, procedural, material, symbolic policies, and the relationship of these policies to politics. Further, the chapter explains the phases of public policy development and policy formulation concluding with an explanation of how public policy comparison with other countries is important. The authors provide a good holistic perspective in defining the concept of public policy.
The uniqueness of Chapter 2 spotlights theoretical and methodological approaches to policy creation and how theoretical and methodological approaches differ. The chapter discusses eight theoretical approaches to public policy creation, including perspectives on elite, pluralist, feminist, and institutional theories. Additionally, rational, incremental, systems, and game theories are included in the chapter. Methodological approaches include process, behavioral, public choice, and post-positivist methods. Further, feminist, discursive, prescriptive, and historical methods are highlighted. Moreover, the chapter explains why theoretical and methodological approaches are necessary in analyzing public policy and how theoretical and methodological help to identify variables for policy formulation. Although other theories and methodologies could include social learning theory, acculturation theory, social construction methodology and transformative methodology, those theories and methodologies mentioned provide a good framework for understanding.
Anticipation builds as Chapter 3 sets the stage for the analysis of policy comparison in chapters 4 through 10. The chapter begins by identifying the dominant social paradigm (DSP) and demographics in the United States, defining dominant social paradigm, and posit how public policy could be a direct result of a nation’s (DSP). Understanding DSP in the United States is critical for helping the reader recognize differences with other countries. Enhancing the reader’s knowledge, the chapter deliberates on the representative democracy of the United States at the federal, state, and local levels, how they are virtually identical, and the formal influences each institution of government has on policy development. Furthermore, informal influences on policy creation such as interest groups, short-term bias, and crisis are examined. The chapter also considers other forms of government for comparison with other countries.
The heart and soul of the book is found in Chapters 4 through 10. These chapters are enlightening as they focus on various public policies in comparison with the various countries mentioned. Each chapter is well organized beginning with a synopsis of US policy, a synopsis of the comparison country’s policy, and concludes with a comparison of the two policies. To begin, Chapter 4 centers on election policy compared to India. Chapter 5 focuses on criminal justice policy in comparison with China. Chapter 6 concentrates on health care policy in comparison with Canada. Chapter 7 scrutinizes social welfare policy in comparison with Sweden. Chapter 8 dissects air and water pollution control policy in comparison to Brazil. Chapter 9 analyzes alternative energy policy in comparison with the Netherlands and Chapter 10 reviews trade policy in comparison to Japan. Chapter 11 is a clarifying review of previous chapters.
The unique outline of Chapters 4 through 10 are noteworthy in that each of these chapters provides detailed information about their respective policy in both the United States and comparison countries. Each of these chapters describes the problems and challenges of each policy in the United States and the comparison country. Most informative is the country profile of each comparison country and the comparison synopsis at the end of the chapter. Also included at the end of Chapters 4-10 are the key terms, critical thinking questions, book resources, web resources, comparison policy resources, and a reference list for each chapter.
Overall, U.S. Public Policy in an International Context provides readers with a good overview of public policies and policy development processes in the United States with a quality comparative framework. The book gives an objective viewpoint on how the United States compares with other countries in creating effective public policies and is a good reference tool for travelers, citizens, scholars, government policymakers, and others interested in various public policies from around the world. The comparison with other countries makes this book a must have as it has remarkable historical and informational value. The book could be strengthened by making multiple comparisons for each public policy.