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Encyclopedia > Public policy

Public policy is a course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a problem. Public policy is expressed in the body of laws, regulations, decisions and actions of government. Policy analysis may be used to formulate public policy and to evaluate its effectiveness. Many public policy analysts earn Ph.D., Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Administration degrees in public policy schools, while others earn specialized degrees, such as an M.Ed for specializing in educational policy or an MSW for specializing in social welfare policy. This article is about law in society. ... This article or section should be merged with Decision_making. ... Policy analysis is the systematic evaluation of alternative means of achieving social goals. ... The Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) is a professional Masters degree that traditionally provided training in policy analysis and program evaluation at public policy schools. ... The Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) historically has been a professional Masters degree that provides training in public policy, project and program implementation—that is, public management. ... Public policy schools offer Public affairs degrees and teach students policy analysis, public policy, public administration, and public affairs. ... The Master of Education (M.Ed or M.A.E.) is a degree conferred by American institutions for educators moving on in their field. ... The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a type of masters degree which is received from a graduate school that has been approved by the Council on Social Work Education. ... ...


Various definitions

According to William Jenkins in Policy Analysis: A Political and Organizational Perspective (1978), a Public Policy is ‘a set of interrelated 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’. Thus, Jenkins understands Public Policy making to be a process, and not simply a choice.

According to Thomas Birkland in An Introduction to the Policy Process (2001), there is a lack of a consensus on the definition of public policy. Birkland outlines a few definitions of public policy (Table 1.3 on p. 21):

  • Clarke E. Cochran, et al.: "The term public policy always refers to the actions of government and the intentions that determine those actions".
  • Clarke E. Cochran, et al.: "Public policy is the outcome of the struggle in government over who gets what".
  • Thomas Dye: Public policy is "Whatever governments choose to do or not do".
  • Charles L. Cochran and Eloise F. Malone: "Public policy consists of political decisions for implementing programs to achieve societal goals".
  • B. Guy Peters: "Stated most simply, public policy is the sum of government activities, whether acting directly or through agents, as it has an influence on the life of citizens".

Birkland indicates that the elements common to all definitions of public policy are as follows (p. 20):

  • The policy is made in the name of the "public".
  • Policy is generally made or initiated by government.
  • Policy is interpreted and implemented by public and private actors.
  • Policy is what the government intends to do.
  • Policy is what the government chooses not to do.

History of public policy

According to Birkland:

While the study of politics has a long history, the systematic study of public policy, on the other hand, can be said to be a twentieth century creation. It dates, according to Daniel McCool, to 1922, when political scientist Charles Merriam sought to connect the theory and practices of politics to understanding the actual activities of government, that is public policy." (p.4) (see McCool, Daniel C. Public Policy Theories, Models, and Concepts: An Anthology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995.)

Public policy and science

Michael Crichton said:

  • As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact. [1]

Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences(1969-1981), said that "Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference - science and the nation will suffer." [2] President Harding and the National Academy of Sciences at the White House, Washington, DC, April 1921 The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine. ...

Types of public policy

In government, domestic policy is the counterpart of foreign policy; it consists of all government policy decisions, programs, and actions that primarily deal with internal matters, as opposed to relations with other nation-states. ... Education policy refers to the collection of rules, both stated and implicit, or the regularities in practice that govern the behavior of persons in schools. ... Energy policy is the manner a given entity (often governmental) has decided to address issues of energy production, distribution and consumption. ... Environmental policy refers to the laws, regulations, and other policy mechanisms concerning environmental issues and sustainability. ... A foreign policy is a set of political goals that seeks to outline how a particular country will interact with the other countries of the world. ... Public policy or ordre public is the body of fundamental principles that underpin the operation of legal systems in each state. ... Social policy is the study of the welfare state, and the range of responses to social need. ...

See also

In 1978, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments (HUDs) Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) established HUD USER, an information source for housing and community development researchers, academics, policymakers, and the American public. ... Political science is the field of the social sciences concerning the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior. ... Program evaluation is essentially a set of philosophies and techniques to determine if a program works. It is a practice field that has emerged, particularly in the USA, as a disciplined way of assessing the merit, value, and worth of projects and programs. ... Public administration can be broadly described as the study and implementation of policy. ... Public health is concerned with threats to the overall health of a community based on population health analysis. ... Public policy schools teach students policy analysis, public policy, public administration, and public affairs. ... Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly (through the public sector) or by financing private provision of services. ... The Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse (RBC) collects, processes, assembles, and disseminates information on existing barriers that inhibit the production and conservation of affordable housing. ... Social contract theory (or contractarianism) is a concept used in philosophy, political science, and sociology to denote an implicit agreement within a state regarding the rights and responsibilities of the state and its citizens, or more generally a similar concord between a group and its members, or between individuals. ... ... Social workers are concerned with social problems, their causes, their solutions and their human impacts. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Public Agenda Online (244 words)
Two public opinion research studies from the nonpartisan "Facing Up to the Nation's Finances" initiative conclude that the public has little difficulty understanding the magnitude of the fiscal challenge facing the nation and is willing to consider tough tradeoffs to address the growing national debt.
Public Agenda's research probes beneath superficial responses to discover not only what Americans think about important issues but why they hold their views and what they want to see happen.
Public engagement brings together diverse members of the public to address tough issues through dialogue, deliberation and new forms of collaboration.
public policy: Definition and Much More from Answers.com (649 words)
Public policy manifests the common sense and common conscience of the citizens as a whole that extends throughout the state and is applied to matters of public health, safety, and welfare.
Public policy is expressed in the body of laws, regulations, decisions and actions of government.
Policy analysis may be used to formulate public policy and to evaluate its effectiveness.
  More results at FactBites »



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