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Local Government and the Implementation of Alabama’s Economic Development Policy

PAQ, Vol. 29 No. 1, (2005)

Political power affects not only the outcome (success or failure) of policy
implementation, but also the design of structures used to deliver the policy.
Beginning with the premise that the social construction of reality shapes the
way policy recipients are perceived as well as the costs and benefits
imposed upon them, we explore the effects of political power on the
delivery of benefits to advantaged populations. More specifically, we
examine the impact of local, or sub-state, government in shaping state
economic development policy. To empirically probe the effects of power,
we have chosen the case of Honda’s investment in Alabama in 1999. We
reach two conclusions. First, clarity of objectives is not detrimental to
effective implementation. Second, implementation structures may be
designed with fuzzy objectives and questionable linkages to outcomes in
order to secure the highest level of support. Bureaucratic discretion is not
simply a function of issues or need for accountability, but also a function of
the incentives derived by political power.

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