The National Coal Policy Experiment
Andrew S. McFarland
National business and political leaders, President Clinton included, are urging greater consultation among conflicting interest groups and government to come up with cooperative solutions to serious problems of economic development and international-trade competition.
Such negotiations, Andrew McFarland contends, can lead to surprisingly successful results. But, he warns, mediations that exclude government officials responsible for enacting and enforcing public policy will fail.
“An absorbing book that offers fresh insights into interest group politics in Washington. [McFarland] treats us to practical insights, syntheses of interesting literatures, and fresh contributions to theory—all of which will make this book of considerable interest to widely varying audiences of scholars, including those attentive to interest groups, public policy making, and the politics of energy and the environment.”
—Political Science Quarterly
“A well-written, well-argued book with clear lessons for a critical issue of politics: What accounts for the patterns of division and cooperation among citizens and the groups that represent them?”
—American Political Science ReviewSee all reviews...
“McFarland explores a long overlooked facet of pluralist politics: the efforts that opposing groups sometimes make to negotiate their differences and promote mutually beneficial policy change. This fascinating study will be a staple of the interest group literature for years to come.”
—Paul J. Quirk, author of Industry Influences in Federal Regulatory Agencies
“In the light of recent interest in both deliberation and privatization, McFarland’s meticulous research on the attempts of environmentalists and business executives to negotiate their differences is sobering. He argues that deliberation among private parties has its limits because minority vetoes stymie negotiations and because active involvement of government officials is absolutely critical. This is an important contribution to literatures on interest groups, corporatism, environmental politics, and public policy.”
—John W. Kingdon, author of Congressmen's Voting Decisions
“Truly an original contribution to interest group theory. Although it ultimately failed to bring about binding agreements on the largest issues involved, the NCPP was surprisingly successful in getting as far as it did. For this approach to be improved so that it may succeed, political elites need a better understanding of the techniques that worked and those that didn't. McFarland’s imaginative and well-grounded theorizing serves that purpose. A work of distinction.”
—Jeffrey M. Berry, author of The Interest Group Society
“This is an intrinsically interesting case, and even more so for what its apparent failures tell us about the dynamics embedded in the American system of governance. This book makes important theoretical statements about the evolution of interest group politics and public policymaking in the United States.”
—Christopher J. Bosso, author of Pesticides and Politics: The Life Cycle of a Public IssueSee fewer reviews...
To illustrate his argument, McFarland investigates the National Coal Policy Project, an endeavor that started in the right direction but ultimately fizzled because the negotiators—business executives and environmentalists—excluded politicians and executive branch officials from the debates.
Following negotiations, the NCPP, financially supported by business, the federal government, and private foundations, produced a report dealing with strip mining and air pollution regulations, the simplification of licensing procedures, and the promulgation of public policies such as the deregulation of transportation. Although it had received some encouragement from the federal government, the NCPP never received official sanction or a promise that any agreements would be enacted into law. As a result, only a small part of NCPP's policy recommendations did become law, while 90 percent were ignored.
Despite its shortcomings, McFarland contends, the NCPP can be viewed as a building block for future negotiations. By learning from its successes and failures, he shows, settlements can be transacted through 'cooperative pluralism," the process of negotiation between the government and two opposing interest groups.