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Microeconomic Ideas, Policy Epistemologies, and the Politics of Spectrum Licensing, 1922-1997

Michael J. Zarkin
Polity
Vol. 38, No. 2 (Apr., 2006), pp. 174-193
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3877052
Page Count: 20
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Microeconomic Ideas, Policy Epistemologies, and the Politics of Spectrum Licensing, 1922-1997
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Abstract

In 1993, Congress authorized the FCC to use competitive bid auctions for the licensing of electromagnetic spectrum. To many members of the communications policy community, this policy change was decades overdue. Why did it take Congress so long to authorize spectrum auctions? Economist Thomas Hazlett has argued that policy gridlock resulting from an enduring political bargain between Congress and the broadcast industry prevented spectrum auctions from being seriously considered for decades. In this article, however, it is argued that the decision to authorize spectrum auctions is best understood when viewed through the literature on policy learning and epistemic communities. An explanation based in this body of literature posits that policy change becomes possible when a new worldview or "policy epistemology" frames the terms of debate in a manner that causes political actors to consider new alternatives.

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