Policy Making
3. Ultimate policy goals

Ultimate policy goals are the policy objectives of a government.

In their campaigns for election politicians supposedly reveal to constituents their ultimate policy goals. Whether they in fact do is a different question; a premise of the Tinbergen model is that ultimate policy goals are revealed by politicians. Politicians promise to be tough on crime, for example, to improve the overall quality of life, to restore the nation's pride, and ultimately to keep taxes low. Although publicly the politicians tend to emphasize their disagreements with political opponents on microeconomic matters, when it comes to macroeconomic policy, they agree on quite a lot. Most advocate:

  • Low unemployment ("It's the economy, stupid!")
  • Low inflation ("Today's gas prices are unconscionable!")
  • Domestic stability ("Together we can whip this recession!")
  • International stability ("If only China would free its ports!")
  • Economic growth and development ("This economic train is chugging along!")

In 1992 then-Presidential candidate Bill Clinton and President George Bush, Sr. both campaigned for more jobs and a stronger economy. Both wanted more growth and greater stability while maintaining low inflation. Their ultimate goals differed a little. The Republican Bush was intent on keeping inflation down, whereas the Democrat Clinton was more worried about unemployment. But where they disagreed vehemently was at a lower level of decision-making-way down at the level of choosing targets and instruments of control: Bush wanted less government intervention, Clinton more.

Apart from these macroeconomic goals politicians also pursue microeconomic goals such as maintaining a healthy manufacturing sector and improving the distribution of income. On these latter goals politicians tend to disagree most sharply. For example Clinton expressed greater concern than Bush did about inequality in the U.S. distribution of income, appointing the liberal political economist and fellow Rhodes Scholar Robert Reich (the author of the best-selling book, The Work of Nations) as U.S. Secretary of Labor.