A Contemporary Reading of Advice and Consent

Peter deLeon and B. Kathleen Gallagher

This essay revisits deLeon's argument describing the development of the policy sciences. The authors propose two "new" phenomena that have affected the mission and shape of the policy sciences, one — the rise in importance of the non-profit sector — being exogenous in nature, the second — the adoption of the concept of governance — being endogenous. It ends with an illustration.


In 1988, Peter deLeon, writing under the auspices of The Russell Sage Foundation, published Advice and Consent, in which he described his interpretation of The Development of the Policy Sciences. In Advice and Consent, deLeon first outlined the basic concepts underpinning the Lasswellian "policy sciences," with special emphasis paid to the defining characteristics of the policy sciences that distinguish them from other academic research fields. Their three principal hallmarks were: (i) that they were explicitly problem oriented; (ii) that they were multidisciplinary in the conceptualization of a problem and their analytic approach to understanding that problem; and (iii) that they were explicitly normative in their approach, clearly defined (by Lasswell, 1951, p. 16) as the "policy sciences of democracy." Drawing upon Lasswell's original depiction of the policy process (Lasswell, 1948/2009; Lasswell, 1956), the policy research community basically accepted a policy process approach characterized by six phases or stages, most notably laid out by Brewer and deLeon (1983):

  • Initiation, or the initial recognition of the problem and the framing of the subsequent research design.
  • Estimation, during which "costs" and "benefits" of the various policy options are estimated and compared.
  • Selection, at which time a choice is made by authoritative decision makers, either to adopt one of the posed options or to ask for additional analysis be done to develop additional information.
  • Implementation, during which the chosen policy is put into operation for the targeted population.
  • Evaluation, when the policy as implemented is assessed in terms of a given criterion (e.g., efficiency or equity), often resulting in revised implementation activities, which can effectively alter the initial design of the program.
  • Termination, in which a program is discontinued for any number of reasons.1

From these benchmarks, Advice and Consent traced the development of the policy sciences as a function of what deLeon posed as five pivotal post-World War II historical phenomena. These included the legacy of the analytic achievements during the Second World War, the War on Poverty, the American experience in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal and threatened impeachment of President Richard Nixon, and the initial Energy Crisis. In each of these instances, it is important to note that these were exogenous events that, in various ways, affected the tone and shape of the policy research community in terms of the policy cycle framework, e.g., the War on Poverty's travails reflected the lack of information regarding policy implementation (see Pressman & Wildavsky, 1984).2

Since its publication in 1988, deLeon has revisited his policy narrative, looking to update his analysis in light of more current political events, including the invasions of Iraq, various aspects of the global war on terrorism, the financial debacles of the first decade of the 21st century, the on-going conflict over political funding, and, close to one hundred and fifty years after the passage of the 14th Amendment, the election of an Afro-American as the President of the United States (see, e.g., deLeon, 2006; deLeon & Martell, 2006; deLeon & Vogenbeck, 2007). None of these seemed to cast the same defining powers as the earlier posed five, which is not to suggest the more recent events have been less momentous. Rather, the policy cycle would appear to have been relatively robust or flexible in terms of its earlier-posed explanatory framework. Or, perhaps equally arguable, sclerotic.

We would like to argue for the former proposition abetted by two emerging phenomena, which, we suggest, have had a significant effect on the structure of the policy cycle, the first in the exogenous sense (i.e., a political event that has shaped how we view the policy cycle), the second being endogenous (i.e., how we conceptualize the policy process). The former refers to the development and growth of the nonprofit sector in the United States, which emerged as an independent, pivotal policy force in the late 1970s, making it a viable actor with the public and private sectors in the drama called public policy. The latter refers to the relatively recent use of the concept of governance, or what Kettl (2002) defines as the "interpenetrability" of the three sectors as they interact to create and operationalize public policy and management. We will briefly discuss each before proposing how they interact to affect the workings of the policy process cycle with relatively more time outlining the genesis and growth of the American non-profit sector.

The Nonprofit Sector in the United States

The role and size of government has been debated in the United States since the nation's founding. James Madison argued, in Federalist Number 10, that the federal government would guard against the possible dangers of "factions" in a way that smaller republics could not (Hamilton, Madison, & Jay, 1982). The efforts of the Freemasons, Sons of Liberty, and other groups active during the American Revolution contributed to opinions of the detrimental impacts of voluntary organizations (Hall, 2006). During the debates over the Constitution, the anti-Federalists argued that a central government threatened individual rights and gave too much authority to one individual, the president. Smaller, more localized groups provided citizens a means to gather strength, express their opinions, and possibly influence the government (Hall, 2006).

Laws governing these groups evolved in response to regional influences, including politics and religion. The New England states were more receptive to them, while other regions enacted laws to limit the strength of corporations and associations. Hall (2006, p. 37) has indicated that "Where charities and tax laws favored private initiatives, philanthropic and private enterprises flourished. Where the laws discouraged them, they did not."3 The size and scope of the nonprofit sector reflect several environmental variables, in particular, legal, social, and cultural norms. Religious diversity also predicts a greater presence of nonprofit organizations (Hall, 2004; James, 1987). According to James (1987), religious leaders strategically utilize non- profit organizations to foster growth of the congregation. The United States has historically had a favorable legal environment, corresponding social origins, and religious diversity that indicate the development of a large number of non-governmental associations that developed naturally into its nonprofit sector. Government and cultural norms coincided to produce a nonprofit incubator in the United Sates.

It is difficult to find a mention to the development of the American nonprofit environment without a reference to Alexis de Tocqueville (1835/2000) and his prescient two-volume Democracy in America. Tocqueville (1835/2000) praised Jack- sonian democracy, a political system in which the emphasis was placed on equality among citizens and where voluntary associations formed an education system for politics; Tocqueville wrote:

Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of over a thousand other kinds — religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth, or to foster some feelings by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association (Tocqueville, 1835/2000: 628–629).

De Tocqueville particularly articulated that civic participation fostered more judicious political decisions (Alexander, Nank, & Stivers, 2001).

Associations evolved for both men and women, albeit on separate tracks. As a means for collective voice and expression, associations began to proliferate (Hall, 2006) during the 19th century. Men's social clubs emerged in the first half of the century and women's social clubs began appearing in the 1860s (McCarthy, 1991). In contrast, men's service clubs did not appear until the early twentieth century, a century after women's service clubs had emerged. Men's service clubs continued the male tradition of providing another mechanism for business networking and promotion. A few gradually garnered great power (such as the Grange movements) that manifested themselves politically; others were smaller but equally determined to express themselves politically, often at great risk (the activities of the pre-Civil War Abolitionists, for example).

Women's membership in these new organizations was argued and dismissed because they were not perceived as being able to contribute to the business and political networking that was a critical piece of these organizations' missions (Nathan, 2009). Largely excluded from men's social and service clubs, women relied on their own clubs for social, intellectual, and service opportunities. Hall (2006, pp. 38–9) has observed that "Barred from electoral politics, women used associations to create a "separate sphere" of educational, religious, and cultural activity." Women's clubs, Blair (1994) avers, evolved through four significant stages to serve the needs and expectations of members from a variety of middle-class and upper-class communities and regions. They appeared to satisfy women's needs for self-development and intellectual development. Then they extended women's domain by providing for women to serve the community's needs. The third phase presented itself as women expanded their role to domestic housekeeping, caring for the community while engaging in it. Finally, women's clubs entered a phase of building physical facilities. Settlement houses were most common in large, urban areas in the East and Midwest but women's clubs developed in communities of varying sizes and in all geographic areas (Scheer, 2002). Women's clubs created an environment in which women could engage in substantive thought and/or work without risk of social censure and associations emerged as a means for the disenfranchised (women and minorities, for example) to enter the political arena, particularly in the anti-slavery and, of growing importance, the women's suffrage movements (Hall, 2006).

The issue of slavery was significant to the evolution of voluntary and charitable associations. It became an interstate debate and served to emphasize the national perspective in dialogue and politics in the still young United States (Hall, 2006). National organizations and associations increased in power and provided precedent for other reform movements to aspire to the national stage and prompt relief from the federal government.

While men saw their associations as an outgrowth of their political experience, the opportunities of club life were significant for women, if for no other reason than because there was little alternative. These associations served as a sanctioned non-family activity, a vehicle by which women could express themselves as a group while improving their minds and their communities (Blair, 1994). By 1885, over 100,000 women had allied themselves through women's clubs to explore literature, the arts, history, and current events during a monthly meeting (Blair, 1994). Building social capital, using the words of Robert Putnam (1995), these associations schooled women to master the skills of citizenship (Scheer, 2002). Participation in social and voluntary organizations prepared women for active roles in democracy.

The twentieth century brought with it expectations of change for the non-profit association. Three great social movements found their geneses in the social transition between the centuries, specifically the transformative politics of the Progressive Era, the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, and, for better or worse, the passage of the 18th Amendment initiating prohibition.4 Men's and women's associations all labored mightily for these political changes; their passage indicated that these associations had found their political feet. In addition, these groups' activities resulted in innumerable changes in the cultural and personal health lives of their communities. Women's clubs were extraordinarily effective. After passage of the suffrage Amendment in 1919, women continued to leverage strength from their association and voluntary networks to influence and embarked upon careers in public administration (McCarthy, 1998).

The affluence of the Gilded Age meant that both men's and women's clubs were populated by people with disposable income and free-time. In the U.S., populism was in full flower. Mary Parker Follett (1918/1998), writing at the turn of the twentieth century, laid out an argument for participatory democracy in The New State. She advocated for participation of all members of society through small groups or communities. Small groups, she held, would provide opportunities for deliberative discussions and dialogues that could lead to the evolution of group-held goals, ideas, and actions. Follett's argument has continued with contemporary scholars. DeLeon (1997) makes a case for participatory democracy citing the work of, inter alia, Robert Putnam (1995), Carole Pateman (1970), and Jane Mansbridge (1980). Putnam's (1995) presentation of the loss of social capital and its effect is a key component of deLeon's argument, which he relates back to its historical antecedents.

Robert D. Putnam's masterful argument that the American society has lost much of its social cohesiveness—a loss that reflects unfavorably on its politi- cal bases—mirrors de Tocqueville's proposition: individuals are educated for a political milieu by working together; so the continual fusillade of social conditions that isolate citizens from one another certainly undermines the democratic cooperativeness envisioned by de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill (deLeon, 1997, pp. 35–96).

Nonprofit associations nurture the democratic purpose through the development of group identification, the formation of group mission, and the execution of tasks designed to serve the mission, fight isolation, and provide citizen training that informs political voice, thus benefitting democratic society.

The government and nonprofit sectors in the United Sates operated relatively independently until the twentieth century. Up to this point, public and social welfare were limited and provided by local government (Smith & Lipsky, 1993). Nonprofit organizations received the majority of their support from individuals, while government support was being heavily restricted. This limited the risk exposure of the then-fiscally conservative government and permitted an informal relationship with few demands of the modestly sized nonprofit sector (Smith, 2005b).

The formation of foundations and trusts by such prominent, society-oriented and immensely wealthy figures as the Rockefellers and Carnegie and Ford transformed the prospects of philanthropy as a method to solve social problems (Bremmer, 1960/1988).5 In fact, most likely in recognition of the social "goods" provided by the the nonprofit association, the federal income tax law was amended in 1917 to permit deductions of up to 15 percent of taxable income for charitable contributions (Bremmer, 1960/1988).

The US government was led by President Herbert Hoover as the Great Depres- sion started. It was his belief that individuals, voluntary organizations, and local government should be responsible for social welfare relief programs (Bremmer, 1960/1988). His views were articulated in his 1922 book American Individualism, in which he described a network of associations collaborating with government to improve public welfare through a heightened value for cooperation and public service (Hall, 2006). Beginning with his election in 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency assumed a markedly different approach and led to the unprecedented entry and involvement of the federal government into the nation's social welfare fabric (Bremmer, 1960/1988). Although there is little doubt that Roosevelt presided over the federal government's wholesale involvement in the nation's social, economic, and health sectors, he also implemented programs through state and local government and private entities and encouraged, through tax policies, the charitable giving of corporations and individuals (Hall, 2006). Policies and practices of the New Deal relied upon public-private partnerships (Hall, 2006).

World War II led to a number of changes that would affect the development and growth of the American nonprofit sector. Universal income taxation was enacted in 1943 and the progressive income taxes on personal income and estates and high corporate taxes encouraged charitable giving and the growth of foundations (Hall, 2006). Post-World War II Americans were cognizant of social injustice, the subjugation of people based on race, religion, and gender while simultaneously experiencing the largest national and per capita wealth of any nation (Bremmer, 1960/1988). Mounting public criticism over the recognition of the government's and nonprofits' collective failures to meet the needs of the poor and disenfranchised in the 1950s and 1960s prompted government intervention (Harrington, 1960; Smith, 2005a). As the welfare state grew, the government and nonprofit sectors both expanded. As a result, public funding of nonprofit organizations ballooned in correspondence with the growth of federal social policy (Smith, 2005b). The Civil Rights Act, Medicare/ Medicaid, the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, Peace Corps, VISTA, Teacher Corps, Model Cities, and various pursuits of the Great Society are evidence of federal government's increased role in responding to social problems. Still, with the federal government being largely restrained by the demands of the Vietnam engagement, the government cooperated with voluntary agencies — which had already demonstrated its willingness and capabilities — to expand the programs offered and the pool of those served.

The present size of the American non-profit sector is difficult to assess except that it has unquestionably grown greatly. Hall (2004) reports that, as a result of government decentralization, a reduced governmental workforce, and an ambiguous process of contracting out, direct federal government payments accounted for between twelve and fifty-five percent of total nonprofit revenues by the 1970s. The expansion of the nonprofit sector was accompanied by a shift away from the volun- tary and towards the professional. Hall (2004) identifies the 1970s as the period in which nonprofit organizations emerged as a unified sector.

The economic support for the nonprofit sector similarly suggests the size and scope of the nonprofit sector. According to the Independent Sector (2010), the rev- enues for public charities reporting in 2005 was $1.1 trillion in the following ratio: 50 percent earned income; 29.4 percent government support; 12.3 percent charitable contributions; and 8.3 percent other (Independent Sector, 2010). Multiple sources of revenue are presenting an increasingly complex system for nonprofit organizations to manage (Grønbjerg, 1993; Salamon, 2004; Smith & Grønbjerg, 2006; Smith & Lipsky, 1993; Weisbrod, 1997). While they figuratively pale next to the public and private sector economies, these data and the present roles of the nonprofit sector indicate that the non-profit sector has earned its place — economically, institutionally, politically, and socially — at the policy table. Though its influence may rise or fall,6 there seems little doubt that the nonprofit community must be part of any policy process.


The emergence of the concept of "governance" is the implicit recognition of multiple pressures in the U.S. and how best to conceptualize those phenomena. In direct terms, Milward and Provan (2000, p. 360) have defined governance as the aggregation of public and private authorities "concerned with creating the conditions for ordered rule and collective action," while Lynn, Heinrich, and Hill (2001, p. 7), more process oriented, define governance as the "regimes, laws, rules, judicial decisions, and administrative practices that constrain, prescribe, and enable the provision of publically supported goals and services." More institutionally speaking, we can define "governance" as the involvement of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors towards a pre-agreed policy objective." As the previous section of this paper demonstrated, the expanded role of the nonprofit sector clearly warrants its place in terms of agenda setting and implementation.

The primary reasons for the emergence of governance are surely multiple. The fractious nature of the American body politic and its federalist heritage — made even more fissiparous by political and economic divisions and exclusions — is certainly one candidate. Another, as outlined above, reflects the emergence of a powerful nonprofit community that strives to establish government policy and is often in the position of being able to implement those policies. A third might lie in the information technology revolution; access to policymaking circles is simply easier. Fourth is an extension of the "hollow state" condition (Milward & Provan, 2000); Heinrich, Lynn, and Milward (2009, p. i3) acknowledge the possibility of "a steady, longer term transformation away from direct provision of goods and services through traditional public administration towards more devolved authority and decentralized public service delivery" underpinning a reliance on concepts of governance.

Obviously, in a polity increasingly characterized by complexity and "interpenetrability," none of these occurs independently. Furthermore, as funding, increased transparency and accountability measures, and principal-agent theory come to bear on the practices of nonprofit organizations, there is concern that nonprofit organizations may lose elements of their ethos and advantage. Trends among nonprofits include increased competition and decreased negotiation power (Frumkin, 2002; Grønbjerg, 1993; Gazley & Brudney, 2007), fragmentation and replication of services (Smith, 2005b), and a shift away from volunteers and towards professionalization (Smith, 2005a), Still, as Ott (2001, p. 244) cautions, "We are losing something important as our nonprofit organizations turn into little service delivery businesses." Nonprofits enter the contracting regime in search of financial stability but find the consequences of government contracts pulling them between satisfying contractual obligations and pursuing their stated mission (Ott, 2001). Concerns over the impact of contracting on the nonprofit sector center upon: transformation into small, quasi-government agencies, mission creep, and the loss of independence and autonomy.

However, it is necessary to recognize that the definition and centrality of governance is not universal; George Frederickson (2005, p. 283) has argued cogently against the concept, suggesting that it is "substantially the same as already established perspectives in public administration, although in a different language." At issue seems to be the ambiguity of the terms. Lynn et al. (2001, p. 2) speak persuasively to that charge:

The term "governance" is widespread, in both public and private sectors, in characterizing both global and local arrangements, and in reference to both formal and informal norms and understandings. Because the phrase has strong intuitive appeal, precise definitions are seldom thought to be necessary by those who use it. As a result, when authors identify "governance" as important in achieving policy or organizational objectives, it may be unclear whether the reference is to organizational structure, administrative processes, managerial judgment, systems of incentives and rules, administrative philosophies, or a combination of these elements.

Still, one must defer to the widespread acceptance in public management of both the term "governance" and its wide application. Indeed, Lynn, Heinrich, and Hill's book is entitled Improving Governance; a year earlier, Heinrich and Lynn (2000) wrote Governance and Performance; and, in 2004, Patricia Ingraham and Lynn (2004) co-edited Improving the Art of Governance. Just as important as its general acceptance in public management circles is its widespread acceptance in the public policy lexicon, for it reflects the important centrality of governance across the policy cycle. Brewer and deLeon 1983 emphasize a holistic approach to each of the policy stages. Hajer and Wagenaar (2003) have provided a powerful support for the idea of governance as imperative to their concept of Deliberative Policy Analysis. Elinor Ostrom (1990) was an early advocate of the necessity of local groups having a guiding voice in determining environmental allocations. And much of the participatory policy literature demands involvement across all the involved parties (see Fischer & Forester, 1993; Gutmann & Thompson, 1996). This participation is even more necessary when democratic norms are valued.

An Illustration

An example of both new phenomena would be useful. Voluntary Environment Programs (VEPs) were designed to be an alternative to the "command and control" environmental regulations that characterized federal environmental actions during the 1960s and 1970s (see deLeon & Rivera, 2010 for details). The problem with the "command and control" regulations (replete as they were with sanctions) was that they simply were not resulting in the expected improvements in the environment. Moreover, they often resulted in duplicitous practices. Firms would go to great lengths to "greenwash" their actions, i.e., engage in environmental actions that were seemingly consistent with "good" environmental behavior but, in reality, delivered much less than promised. Moreover, the American body politic was undergoing a more systemic deregulatory movement, most notably in the communications, financial, transportation and environmental sectors of the economy. The implication was that fundamentally governmental control was not working and that the regulated industries warranted greater leeway or latitude in achieving set standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) served as the VEP "poster boy." deLeon, Rivera, and Mandinero (2010, p. 1) made the case: "In general terms, VEPS reflect self-regulatory agreements reached among and promoted by corporate firms, industrial associations, often nonprofit groups, and, finally, for legitimacy's sake, the relevant government agencies." Thus, one found EPA establishing VEPs, such as the Green Lights and 33/50programs, and the US Forest Service (assisted by nonprofits, such as Nature's Conservatory and, at least initially, the Sierra Club) sponsoring the National Association of Ski Area's Sustainable Slopes Program. deLeon et al. (ibid.) indicate that since the 1980s, there has been close to 150 VEPs with close to 15,000 participating members.

The track record of VEPs taken as a whole is, at best, mixed. Analysts have justifiably wondered how a "voluntary" program (i.e., one lacking explicit sanctions) can operate in the face of conflicting objectives (e.g., institutional survival versus "public goods"). But the purpose here is not to perform a requiem on VEPs. Rather, VEPs serve as an illustration of the effect that nonprofit organizations can have on the policy cycle informed by the concepts and operations of governance. Simply speaking, the existence of VEPs in the arsenal of the policy sciences would not have been recognized in the founding generation of policy proponents. Nonprofit organizations had yet to establish themselves as serious participants (except for a few issue-areas) and the facilitating property of governance had yet to establish itself. To the point of this example, one we propose is generalizable: nonprofit organizations and the concept (and practice!) of governance will have a lasting effect on the policy science and the policy cycle.


Naturally in the twenty-plus years since Advice and Consent was published, there has been an extensive menu of landmark political events, ranging, inter alia, from a massive terrorist attack on the US homeland to the literal impeachment of a sitting US president to disastrous improprieties emanating from the banking and investment industries to seemingly unending public health crises to the historic election of an Afro-American president. Viewed in a critical light, however, the "lessons" American derived from the invasions of Iraq did not seem to be qualitatively different from the US experiences in Vietnam. For this essay, the primary criterion for new additions was evidence that the new additions to deLeon's original enumeration can be seen both to have been important and demonstrate promise that their centrality is enduring.

Using these lenses, it is almost impossible to understate the ascendency of the nonprofit communities in U.S. policy deliberation.7 In housing, mental health, public education, environmental concerns, health care, and even foreign policy, the guiding hand of their nonprofit organizations have informed state and the federal governments. To be sure, nonprofit organizations hardly speak with a unified voice, as one might expect in a democratic polity, but they do serve the interest aggregation and articulation functions, perhaps more readily than deLeon's proposed "participatory policy analysis" (1988: 113–140). To push the metaphor only slightly, nonprofits represent the "new" elephant in the policy deliberation rooms, replacing the well-practiced public/private sectors duality. What better then to have the concept of governance that incorporates the new entry into the halls of policy power? In other words, the incorporation of the exogenous event (the emergence of the nonprofit organization) with an endogenous condition (governance) portends their combined effects to provide better information on issues related to the policy processes of government.

Peter deLeon is a professor in the School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver.

B. Kathleen Gallagher is a professor in the School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver.


  1. This Lasswellian heuristic of the policy process has been largely adopted by the policy research community; see Brewer and deLeon (1983), Dunn (1994), Anderson (1995), May and Wildavsky (1976), Kraft and Furlong (2007), and, especially Parsons (1995). Its role in shaping the research agenda within the policy process community is posited by deLeon (1999). A critique is offered by Sabatier (1999). See Hupe and Hill (2006) for a thoughtful assessment.
  2. Beryl Radin (2000) offers an alternative perspective of the growth and change in the policy advice industry.
  3. Contemporary institutional isomorphism theory would predict that liberal governments, like the United States, will be limited in size while the nonprofit sector will be large (Salamon & Anheier, 1998).
  4. Social movements and their policy implications are addressed by Meyer, Jenness, and Ingram (2005). deLeon/Gallagher: A Contemporary Reading 37
  5. A counter movement argued that such philanthropic efforts were craven attempts of the wealthy to manipulate federal tax policy gained strength around 1910 and led to criticism of tax-policy but failed to alter the law (Bremmer, 1960/1988).
  6. On 2 February 2010, the on-line Wall Street Journal published an article headlined "Once-Robust Charity Sector Hit With Mergers, Closings" (Banjo & Kalita, 2010).
  7. And, perhaps, throughout the world, if the rapid growth on the non-governmental organization continues.


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