The Divergent Trajectories of an Idea: Sustainable Development in Germany and the United States
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The idea of sustainable development underlies a policy regime in Germany but has not provided the basis for similar policy in the United States. Even though polls suggest that there is widespread support for environmental spending in both the US and Germany, only Germany has a well-developed policy regime around sustainable development. In the US, however, the idea as well as the interests and institutions surrounding sustainable development have not been able to capture policymaking at the national level, despite multiple attempts by presidents (specifically Presidents Carter & Clinton). This dissertation is seeking to answer the question, why has sustainable development taken such a different trajectory in US national policymaking than it has in German national policymaking? More broadly speaking, how do ideas gain traction in policymaking? I argue that these two cases allow us to draw several broader lessons about the tractability of ideas. These lessons concern ideational framing and concurrence, the impact of the political system on the strength of the interest opposition, the capabilities and limitations of the institutional structure, as well as the impact of contextual factors. Ultimately, the evidence points to the largest lesson being the importance of the interplay of ideas, interests, institutions, and ideology.
- Political science