Making the Case for Government’s Role in the Economy

We are living in a time of unprecedented public interest in the relationship between government and the economy. Unfortunately, people have little understanding of how the economy works and have even less sense of how government affects it.

However, we can build support for government’s role in the economy by telling a new economic narrative.

We must:

Assert intentionality, explaining that the economy is something we build and proactively determine.

Insert notions of interdependence, helping people to see that our individual success is tied up in the world around us.

Articulate the role of government policy by focusing on the public structures that are the foundation of our economy and government’s role in creating and strengthening the middle class

In all of our efforts, we must avoid reinforcing unproductive default thinking that leads people to see the economy as a natural force or to believe that individual choices along determine outcomes. These ways of thinking are among the typical mental constructs that lead people to see a limited role for government in shaping the economy.


  • Publications: Government’s Role in the Economy: Making the Case

    For most Americans, the economy is a difficult topic to understand—one that is better left to experts. “Government’s Role in the Economy: Making the Case” (September 2010) explains two dominant and persistent ways that most people think about the economy and effective ways to move the conversation.

  • Publications: Assets, Opportunity and the Role of Government

    Public opinion about asset-building programs is affected by the public’s perceptions of how the economy works, the role of government in promoting prosperity, and attitudes about individual responsibility and self-sufficiency. “Assets, Opportunity and the Role of Government” (September 2009) outlines how these perceptual challenges undermine public support for asset-building policies and offers recommendations for communicating about, and advocating for, asset-building in more productive ways.

  • Publications: From Poverty to Prosperity

    “From Poverty to Prosperity” (August 2011) explains how to weave new and effective themes into our communications so that we can create a new narrative in our country about the causes of poverty and the ways we can help build prosperity in our communities. We need a narrative that helps our audiences to see poverty as a systemic problem and to see how government can effectively help to create prosperity in families and in our communities.

  • Research: Leveraging the Idea of Public Structures as Foundations of the Economy

    Leveraging the Idea of Public Structures as Foundations of the Economy describes how to use the public structures concept in communicating ways government systems and structures support our economy. Topos Partnership, commissioned by Public Works: The Demos Center for the Public Sector, Nov. 2009.

  • Research: Rethinking the Economy?

    In 2008, the real estate market in the United States crumbled, the stock market plunged, and unemployment rose. One thing that didn’t change was Americans’ understanding of government’s role in the economy. At this time, the Topos Partnership was in the middle of a three year collaboration with Public Works to investigate how Americans understand the role of government in the economy. In “Rethinking the Economy?” (November 2009), Topos Partnership explores the impact of the economic downturn on American thinking about the economy.

  • Research: Promoting Broad Prosperity: A Topos Strategy and Research Brief

    “Promoting Broad Prosperity: A Topos Research and Strategy Brief” (October 2009) offers a complete look at research conducted by the Topos Partnership for Public Works that looked at how Americans perceive government’s role in the economy. This research report describes the existing patterns in public understanding that inhibit citizen action, as well as the recommended elements of a framing approach that will build public will and mobilize citizen involvement in economic policy.

  • Research: Paving the Way: Government's Role in Economic Innovation

    “Paving the Way: Government’s Role in Economic Innovation” (November 2009) offers suggestions for discussing the vital role that government plays in making business and technology innovations happen. This report was developed as a part of a larger research effort undertaken by the Topos Partnership and Public Works to understand how Americans perceive government’s role in the economy.

  • Research: Government, The Economy and We, The People: Creating Public Will to Shape an Economy that Works for All

    “Government, the Economy, and We, The People” (October 2009) offers an overview of insights and recommendations for creating a new public conversation about the role of government in the economy. Conducted by the Topos Partnership for Public Works, this research offers strategies for those wishing to engage the public in economic policy and build support for approaches that serve all Americans.

  • Presentations and Webinars: Making the Case for Government's Role in the Economy Presentation

    The American public is very anxious about the economy. They want action.  In this presentation, we offer suggestions for helping Americans understand how the economy works, the possible roles government can play in shaping the economy, and  how they can influence economic policy.

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