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Texas Politics - Political Economy
5.    Politics, Economics, and Representative Government

Now that we have a high-level view of the major sources of revenue and overall distribution of expenditures we can take a closer look at how additional dynamics of the state's political-economy shape public policy outcomes.

Our public policies are shaped by the broad patterns of taxation and spending described above. But each area of public policy has its own unique history and inherent dynamics. Below we review three policy areas - transportation (highways construction), public safety and corrections, and education. Each gets a lot of public and private attention because of the considerable sums spent on them and because of their overall impact on society.

How the political system allocates money or otherwise designs and enforces public policies (whether in the legislature, the executive or the judiciary) profoundly affects the structure of the economy and society, which in turn feeds back into the political system.

Consider the construction of roads as an example of this feedback loop. Good roads create the conditions for both expanded automobile ownership and suburban development. As the physical landscape is transformed and automobile-related and road construction businesses grow over the years, both the need for roads increases and their advocates multiply. As these advocates in business and society become more powerful, they exert increasing pressure on the political system, which in turn results in public policies that are generally more favorable to road construction.

The same dynamic applies to public support of prisons, hospitals, schools, convention centers, airports, state parks, professional sports stadiums, oil drilling, petroleum refining, suburban development, police and fire protection, the information technology industry, manufacturing plants, downtown redevelopment, and more.

The following subsections are not meant to be a comprehensive discussion of public policy issues. Instead, they provide thumbnail sketches to the policy outcomes that have emerged from the intersection of government and economics described in the sections above. The discussions in following sections do, however, contain links to more extensive analysis of the policy areas touched upon.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
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