As you learned from this chapter, the traditional theory of democracy asserts that individuals are empowered to influence government by voting and participating. Another theorythe pluralist theoryasserts that organized groups compete with one another to influence government by pressing their concerns before various institutions of government. We "test" these two theories in a way by looking at the public comments that groups and individuals submit to government agencies as the agencies are trying to decide on various rules. In this case, let's look at the public comments that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, received as it was considering establishing standards for determining the validity of urine specimens collected under the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. These proposed standards are intended to ensure that validity testing and reporting procedures are uniformly applied to all Federal agency urine specimens when a validity test is conducted.
Go to the SAMHSA's Division of Workplace Programs public comments page on drug testing and specimen validity testing http://www.drugfreeworkplace.gov/frames/frame_drugtest.htm. Briefly review the 23 comments posted on this page. Make special note of the organizations, companies, and individuals who have submitted the comments.
Questions to Ask
- Based upon your review, where do most comments come fromorganizations, businesses or individuals?
- Can you determine whether or not there is competition going on between those who submitted comments? If so, what is it over?
- Does this test validate traditional or pluralist theory, or can you see evidence of both?
Why it Matters
Every day government is doing something to either expand or reduce individual rights. In this exercise you see that government is attempting to revise the standards for determining whether a urine sample is valid or not for drug testing purposes. This policy is likely to effect you personally when you graduate and start looking for a job.
Opportunities to make public comment, or to attend a meeting where public comment will be accepted, are often posted in the newspaper. Watch for one of these announcements and attend the meeting. If you have an opinion about the proposal, make a comment.