Introduction to Public Policy
What is policy?
A policy is a set of decisions which
(a) sets out directives for immediate or future action or conduct; or
(b) lays down guidelines for the implementation of action or conduct already approved.
Though a policy may be designed for action in an isolated case, it is usually designed for repetitive actions in similar cases.
Further, policy may also be defined as an agreed-upon course of action, guiding principle, or procedure considered to be expedient, prudent, or advantageous for example, “Pay day is the last day of the month.”
Meaning of Public
The term "public" originates with the Latin "populus" or "poplicus", and in general denotes some mass population ("the people") in association with some matter of common interest. So in political science and history, a public is a population of individuals in association with civic affairs, or affairs of office or state.
In social psychology, marketing, and public relations, a public has a more situational definition. John Dewey (1927) defined a public as a group of people who, in facing a similar problem, recognize it and organize themselves to address it.
Dewey's definition of a public is thus situational: people organized about a situation. Built upon this situational definition of a public is the situational theory of publics by James E. Grunig (1983), which talks of nonpublics (who have no problem), latent publics (who have a problem), aware publics (who recognize that they have a problem), and active publics (who do something about their problem).
What is Public Policy?
Public policy is an attempt by a government to address a public issue by instituting laws, regulations, decisions, or actions pertinent to the problem at hand. Numerous issues can be addressed by public policy including crime, education, foreign policy, health, and social welfare.
Public Policy is policy made by the three organs of the State: Legislature, Executive and -Higher Judiciary (High courts and Supreme Court).
Following are the characteristic features of Public Policy:
• distinctive characteristics of the state as an organization;
• vast scope of public policy and its far-reaching impact;
• multiplicity of considerations and decision criteria;
• multiplicity of actors, and the permeability of the decision-making process to outside influence.
Public policies are established for many government activities. They map out pathways of how the government believes a particular issue should be addressed, and describe hoped for outcomes. Generally, policies deal with issues in our society which is perceived as problem areas, which is why it is such an important part of the alcohol/drug field. Each policy clearly identifies the government’s position towards the issue, as well as stating their philosophy with which they believe the issue should be addressed.
A public policy generally includes many different strategies (or policy instruments) to be utilized in addressing an issue. The course of government action (or inaction) taken in response to public problems is associated with formally approved policy goals and means, as well as the regulations and practices of agencies that implement programs.
Contexts of Public Policy
• Social context: Societal changes (e.g., population changes)
• Economic context: State of the economy (e.g., surplus vs. deficit)
• Political context: Political/ideological issues (who is in power?)
• Governing context: Structure of government (e.g., separation of powers)
• Cultural context: Values, beliefs (e.g., red state vs. blue state)
Public policy is best thought of as a process rather than a particular act, action, or thing. It is probably both, however, and it is possible to ask what the current policy on, say, child benefits, is, as well as asks about the process by which such benefits are set. In a course like this, we will be more interested in exploring the processes by which policies come to be.
Definitions of Public Policy
Public policy is a proposed course of action of a person, group or government within a given environment providing obstacles and opportunities which the policy was proposed to utilize and overcome in an effort to reach a goal or realize an objective or purpose… (Frederich, 1963).
Public policy is all about whatever governments choose to do or not to do… (Thomas Dye, 1972).
A broad guide to present and future decisions, selected in light of given conditions from a number of alternatives; the actual decision or set of decisions designed to carry out the chosen course of actions; a projected program consisting of desired objectives (goals) and the means of achieving them… (Daneke and Steiss, 1978).
Public policy is the broad framework of ideas and values within which decisions are taken and action, or inaction, is pursued by governments in relation to some issue or problem… (Brooks, 1989).
Public policy is a broad guide to present and future decisions, selected in light of given conditions from a number of alternatives; the actual decision or set of decisions designed to carry out the chosen course of actions; a projected program consisting of desired objectives (goals) and the means of achieving them… (Daneke and Steiss, 1978).
Public policy is “a set of inter-related decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve” (Jenkins, 1978).
Characteristic Features of Public Policy
• A public policy is subjectively defined by an observer.
• It consists of a series of patterns of related decisions.
• The process of policy making involves several sub-processes and may extend over a considerable period of time.
• It has a purpose which may change over time and in some cases, may be defined only retrospectively.
• It is concerned with the intentions (purpose or ends) of policy makers as well as their behavior (outputs or outcomes).
• A public policy involves action as well as inaction; a policy also includes what the government does not do or what it intends not to do.
• The process of policy-making involves intra and inter-organizational relationships with a key but not the exclusive role of public agency.
• A public policy involves many participants; the stakeholders in public policy comprise the policy makers (political executives and bureaucrats), those affected by the decisions like the public and other interest groups, and those interested in the public policies such as media and experts.
• A public policy has to deal with many constraints such as technology, resources, assumptions, and reactions of interest groups and media.
Why should we study Public Policy?
Public policies shape economic, social and political choices by allowing, requiring, prohibiting, encouraging or discouraging various behavior. Public decisions are very important to us. They affect the way we make our living and the quality of life itself. Public decisions determine the quality of education, control traffic, provide defense, stabilize banking, and supply our judicial and legislative systems. None of these services would be provided without public decisions to determine what the policy should be.
Hence it is imperative that the citizens are well aware of the public policy institutions, systems and processes. Indeed, public policy education augments citizens’ ability to participate and make choices as well as influence policy decisions of various agencies of the State.
What determines public policy in India?
Directive Principles of State Policy as enshrined in the Constitution of India (part IV, articles 36 to 50) is the guiding force of Public policy formulation and implementation in the country.
Although the provisions contained in the Directive Principles are not be enforceable by any court of law, these are fundamental in the governance of the country and it is the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.
The Forty-second Amendment, which came into force in January 1977, attempted to raise the status of the Directive Principles by stating that no law implementing any of the Directive Principles could be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated any of the Fundamental Rights.
The directive principles are given as under:
Economic & Social Principles
• The State is to direct its policy to secure adequate means of livelihood for all the citizens of India.
• Ownership and control of natural resources are to be distributed to serve the common good.
• The operation of the economic system does not result in concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.
• There should be equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
• The health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not to be abused.
• Children are to be given opportunities and facilities to develop in healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.
• The citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocation unsuited to their age and strength.
• To make effective provisions for securing the right to work, education and public assistance in case of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want.
• To make provisions for securing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief.
• To provide living wages, etc. for working section.
• To take steps to secure the participation of workers in the management of undertakings, etc.
• To promote education and economic interests of the working sections, especially scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
• To organize village panchayats.
• To promote cottage industries in rural areas.
• To bring about prohibition of intoxicating drinks and drugs that are injurious to health.
• To preserve and improve the breeds of the cattle and prohibit slaughter of cows, calves, and other milch and drought animals.
• To establish a welfare society.
• To secure for all Indians a Uniform Civil Code.
• To provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
• To take steps to secure separation of judiciary from the executive of the state.
• To raise the standards of health and nutrition.
• To organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines.
• To protect historical monuments.
• To promote international peace and security.
• To maintain just and honorable relation between nations.
• To foster respect for international law and treaty obligations.
• To encourage settlement of international disputes by mutual agreement.