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Public Policymaking by Private Organizations

Challenges to Democratic Governance

By Catherine E. Rudder, A. Lee Fritschler, and Yon Jung Choi
RUDDER et al_Public Policymaking

How private groups increasingly set public policy and regulate lives — with little public knowledge or attention

From accrediting doctors and lawyers to setting industry and professional standards, private groups establish many of the public policies in today’s advanced societies. Yet this important role of non-governmental groups is largely ignored by those who study, teach, or report on public policy issues. Public Policymaking by Private Organizations sheds light on policymaking by private groups, which are unaccountable to the general public and often even to governments.

This book brings to life the hidden world of policymaking by providing an overview of this phenomenon and in-depth case studies in the areas of finance, food safety and certain professions. Far from being merely self-regulation or self-governance, policymaking by private groups, for good or ill, can have a substantial impact on the broader public—from ensuring the safety of our home electrical appliances to vetting the credit-worthiness of complex financial instruments in the runup to the 2008 financial crisis.

Ranging from non-profit associations to multi-national corporations, private policymaking groups are everywhere. They certify professionals as competent, establish industry regulations and set technical and professional standards.  But because their operations lack the transparency and accountability required of governmental bodies, these organizations comprise a policymaking territory that is largely unseen, unreported, uncharted and not easily reconciled with democratic principles.  As such, that territory demands to be fully explored, documented and understood.  Even more urgently, private governance should be recognized and scrutinized as a distinct and important area in the field of public policy. Anyone concerned about how policies are made — and who makes them — should read this book.


 Catherine E. Rudder, Professor Emerita, joined George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs after having served as Executive Director of the American Political Science Association for 14 years.  She is co- author with A. Lee Fritschler of Smoking and Politics: Bureaucracy Centered Policymaking, 6th edition.

A. Lee Fritschler is Professor Emeritus in the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs at George Mason University. He specializes in regulatory and higher education policy.  He was Assistant Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education, President of Dickinson College, Chair of the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission and Vice-President of Brookings. Fritschler is co-author with Catherine E. Rudder Smoking and Politics: Bureaucracy Centered Policymaking, 6th edition.

Yon Jung Choi is a PhD candidate and holds a Masters in Public Policy from the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University, focusing on her research on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and global governance.

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