From Claiming Credit to Avoiding Blame: The Evolution of Congressional Strategy for Asbestos Management

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This paper develops a theory synthesizing credit-claiming and blame-avoidance explanations of congressional behavior and evaluates it against asbestos policy in the United States from the I920s through the I980s. Public policy is viewed as shaped by officeholders' ability to achieve political ends through augmenting information costs and other transaction costs facing the public. Public perceptions are seen both as the endogenous product of congressional information-cost manipulation and as an exogenous constraint that changes in identifiable ways over time. Different policy stances - open credit claiming, concealed credit claiming, early-stage blame avoidance, and full-scale blame avoidance - are predicted to emerge in response to specified conditions, yielding implications about the expected timing of public policy changes. Specific types of transaction-cost manipulation are predicted to accompany the identified policy stances. The US asbestos policy experience is shown to be consistent with the predictions of the model.

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This document was originally published by Cambridge University Press in Journal of Public Policy. Copyright restrictions may apply. DOI: 10.1017/S0143814X00006188