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Participation in Congress
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2001
Hall points out that while we like to assume that legislators can be bought -- that is, that political donations "buy" a vote on a given issue -- studies have rarely found any real link between a legislator's stand on an issue and the positions s/he takes. Indeed, interest groups often give a good deal of money to their friends: agricultural groups to Congressmen from farm states, for example. Why bother?
The answer, Hall suggests, is that while Congressmen don't sell their vote, they do rent their time. Members can choose to participate, or not, in any number of arenas -- they only have so many hours in a day and need to choose which meetings to attend and when to speak up. So when deciding when they will go to a given subcommittee or offer a given amendment, they do take into account the strength and intensity of their various constituencies, including those who give money to their campaigns. It's an interesting and well-crafted account.
This is hardly a perfect work (if only because through no fault of Hall's the Congress changed dramatically after 1994, when the GOP took control for the first time in 40 years), but it is a serious one; thus, with respect, the earlier posted review of this book is rather ludicrous. Hall refers to his own work in part because he has been in the forefront of work that explores the dynamics of Congressional behavior; using the first person is a welcome break from the ponderous royal "we" or stating things in the passive tense. It's not clear what statistics are meant to be in question. This book uses quantitative methods, themselves not universal in political science and certainly at times hard to understand. But this doesn't make them incorrect. Hall could do a better job translating his numbers into English, but serious readers need to do some of the work too.
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