Policy Making for the Long Term in Advanced Democracies

Posted: 13 May 2016

See all articles by Alan M. Jacobs

Alan M. Jacobs

University of British Columbia (UBC)

Date Written: May 2016


A range of policy problems — from climate change to pension sustainability to skill shortages — confront governments with intertemporal dilemmas: trade-offs between maximizing social welfare in the present and taking care of the future. There is, moreover, substantial variation in the degree to which democratic governments are willing to invest in long-term social goods. Surprisingly, the literature on the politics of public policy has paid little explicit attention to timing as a dimension of policy choice, focusing almost exclusively on matters of cross-sectional distribution. This article develops a framework for explaining intertemporal policy choices in democracies by adapting findings from the literatures on distributive politics, political economy, and political behavior. The article makes a case for analyzing the politics of the long term as a struggle over how welfare should be allocated across groups and over how policy effects should be distributed through time.

Suggested Citation

Jacobs, Alan M., Policy Making for the Long Term in Advanced Democracies (May 2016). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 19, pp. 433-454, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2779569 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-110813-034103

Alan M. Jacobs (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC) ( email )

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