FACULTY OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCE
DEPARTMENT OF GOVERNANCE PEACE AND SECURITY STUDIES
Bachelor of Arts in Security Studies
ASSIGNMENT NO: ONE
BASED ON THOROUGH RESEARCH, EXPLAIN THE MEANING OF PUBLIC POLICY
SUBMITTED BY: BSS/40/17
SUBMITTED TO: MR G.A MHANGO.
Date of Submission: FRIDAY 16TH NOVEMBER, 2018
WHAT IS PUBLIC POLICY?
Public policy is the most ambiguous term. It is the field of study in this contemporary public policy studies and it is also the art of government. Whenever and wherever governments have existed, public policies also have to be formulated and implemented. Policy is a very indistinct term. In its simplest sense according to Spicker (2006), a policy is a decision about a course of action, but it is also supposed to represent a set of decisions, interrelated and consistent with others. Such being the case, in every form of government policies have to be formulated and implemented. Government creates these policies to cope up with the miscellaneous troubles and needs of the people in the country such as social security, unemployment and education. However, Malawi has a lot of policies which are a blue print on paper but when it becomes to implementation, some of these policies do not please beneficiaries and sometimes remain a theory Spicker (2006). Currently, there is no universally accepted definition of what constitute public policy. Therefore, this being the case, it is of great interest to know the meaning of public policy.
MEANING OF PUBLIC POLIY BY DIFFERENT SCHOLARS
In the first place, the word policy according to Anderson (2015), refers to the purposive course of action which a person or group consistently observes in dealing with matters of public concern. In both public as well as private sector, policies are regarded as instruments through which societies control themselves in an attempt to direct human behaviour in acceptable directions Anderson (2015). Although other scholars define policy in this way, there is no agreed definition of public policy in the contemporary world. However, despite the diverse perception of public policy, other researchers have attempted to describe public policy indifferent angles. Friedrich (1976) defines public policy as a planned course of action of an individual, group, as well as government in a given environment providing chances and obstacles on which the policy was planned to use and overcome in an attempt to reach a goal or an objective. Similarly, Hill(2009) defines public policy as government’s plan of action to give an effect to particular normative as well as empirical goals in an effort to deal with apparent grievances of the society in a specific way and attain preferred changes in that society. Regardless of the presence of these miscellaneous perceptions, public policy is perceived to be a problem solving activity of the government in order to meet the needs of the society.
Upon the understanding of public policy above, it has been clearly shown that public policies are government choices, and that they are essentially the outcome of actions which the government undertakes in pursuance of certain goals as well as objectives as expressed by Dunn (2009). On the other hand, public policy formulation as well as implementation encompasses a well-planned form of activity as it needs a systematic close tie relation as well as joint effort framed by the significant governmental departments such as executive, legislature, bureaucracy, as well as judiciary. For instance, policy making process may involve some main features which include definition of the problem to be addressed, objectives which the policy intends to attain, as well as the tools which are used to deal with the problem and achieve the policy objectives Dunn (2009).
Also Jenkins as cited in Sapru (2010) also describes public policy as a set of interrelated choices taken by the political actor or even group of actors regarding the choice of goals as well as the ways of achieving these goals in a stated situation where those choices should, in principle, be in the power of those actors. This entails that public policies are purpose oriented because they are framed and implemented for the purpose of achieving specific goals which the government wants for the barely benefit of the general public. These policies clearly explain programmes of government. In general, public policy aims at attaining a specific objective which is taken to be most important for all members of society. For instance, government may formulate and implement policies of access to safe water, good health, as well as educational attainment, to its citizens.
Similarly, Gerston (2010) defines public policy as a principled guideline to an act pursued by the administrative as well as executive branches of the government with consideration of the class of issues, in a way consistent with the law as well as organizational customs. This entails that public policy is what the state really plans or wants to do. It is the connection of the government components to the specific area of political arena in a specific administrative system such that this can take a variety of shapes such as law, court decisions as well as executive orders Gerston (2010). Thus, public policy is said to be comprehensive direction or perspective which the state places with the aim of making decisions Dye (2012). Every institution as well as an individual is ordered to make a choice in a policy framework which may be a short time action or not. Policy is made up of several decisions which are pursued to fulfill specific objectives. Dye, (2012) further stipulates that public policy is made up of a sequence of choices tied together into a consistent whole. However, there can be differences in the procedures involved in decision as well as policy making but both are focusing on choice in the middle of alternatives and for both similar processes can be taken in making these alternatives.
Nevertheless, Dye (1972) also defines public policy as everything that state chooses to do or not to do. In view of this point, Anderson (2003) introduced a model of the policy process which has been very fruitful as a primary outline in the arena of public policy studies as well as becoming an introductory point for variety of typologies of the public policy process. Public policy making is deemed not only a practical action of the state but fairly a diverse communicating process credited by the different nature of socio-political as well as other environmental forces.
Moreover, according to Brooks as cited in Anderson (2003) public policy is defined as the comprehensive framework of thoughts as well as values in which choices are taken and action is followed by states in connection to other issues or problems. In support of this, Cochran and Malone (2014), argue that Public policy may be explained as the total framework in which state actions are pursued to achieve public goals. This shows that policies are reasoned courses of action formulated in reaction to an apparent problem and they are clarified through a specific policy process which include adoption, implementation, regulatory measures, courses of state action, funding priorities, as well as enforcement by a public organization Cochran and Malone (2014).These policies provides direction to regimes over a variety of actions as well as giving shared liability links between the state and the citizens. They are mostly shaped by individuals and groups through combination of interest groups, advocacy education, as well as political lobbying.
To sum up the discussion on the meaning of public policy, it is clear that public policies are governmental decisions, which are actually the result of activities taken by the government in order to achieve particular objectives and goals. It can also be said that formulation as well as implementation of public policies involves a well planned model of activity in order to achieve the intended goals.
Anderson, J. E. (2003), Public policymaking: An introduction. Boston: Houghton.
Cochran, C. L ; Malone E. F (2014), Public Policy, perspectives and choice, 5th Ed. Lynne Rienner: USA.
Dunn W.N (2009), Public Policy Analysis: An Introduction, Harlow: Pearson Longman.
Dye T.R. (2012), Understanding Public Policy, Harlow: Pearson Longman.
Dye, T. R., (1972), Understanding Public Policy, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs: New Jersey.
Friedrich. C.J. (1976), Policy Making, Structures and Processes, Niilm University.
Gerston. L.N. (2010), Public Policy Making: Process and Principles, New York: M.E Sharpe.
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Sapru, R.K. (2010). Public Policy: Formulation, Implementation and Evaluation, (2nd edition). New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited
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