Attenuated Governance: How Policymakers Insulate Private School Choice From Legal Challenge

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Indirect or delegated governance engages private organizations, tax expenditures or service users to deliver programs that would otherwise be provided by the government direct. This paper explains the rise of indirect governance in terms of policymakers’ strategic use of ‘attenuation’ to avoid political and legal challenge. Attenuation is the process by which a government obscures its role in promoting a particular policy goal, through communication strategies (attenuating rhetoric), or by utilizing private third parties and the tax system to deliver a benefit (attenuated design). Deploying policymaker interviews and an original historical database of private school choice programs and their legal and political defense, 1953-2017, I argue that pursuing both attenuated design and attenuating rhetoric at once helps policies pass and spread by publicly dissociating the government from legally contentious policy outputs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-273
Number of pages37
JournalPolicy Studies Journal
Issue number2
Early online date12 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

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