What is Policy?
According to a dictionary definition, policy is "any course of action followed primarily because it is expedient or advantages in a material sense". When put into a political theme, this definition would read: ‘Public Policy is a concept (usually in a written document), whereby the government or a political party will determine decisions, actions and other matters that will prove advantages to society in general’.
Another possible way to look at policies, particularly the governments, is to think of them as the principle (be it values, interests and resources) that underlines the actions that will take place to solve public issues. This maybe administered through state or federal action such as legislation, regulations and administrative practices.
The starting point for anyone who is producing policies is to realise that there needn’t always be consistency in them. This is mainly because the values of society are continuously changing, and policies being the representation of society’s preferences and ideals, must change with them. It is at this broad level that policy becomes a complex interplay of "social and economic decisions, prevailing ideas, institutions and individuals, technical and analytical procedures, and general theories about the way policy is made"(Concept by Hawker, Smith and Weller). All of these factors when taken into account, will determine how the new policy will effect the following:
There is no right or wrong policy. But the foremost will be one that addresses the masses, and reflects their social values.
Considering that public policy is an action taken by the government that ultimately effects the public, it has been recognized that even when an area of activity is left in private hands, the very act of it being left alone can be viewed as a deliberate policy of the authorities. This could possibly be because the general societies needs did not need to be altered, or because the body that the activity was delegated to will make the necessary changes in the place of the government; possibly because they understand social issues better because of their standing within society, for example local councils.
Many factors influence why a policy is created. Lobby groups, political parties, single issue coalitions, industrial councils, unions and pressure groups play a very active role in this, mainly because their vast size through social support which allows them to contest issues. For a government not to listen and then act on their requests would almost mean certain suicide. This is especially true around election time, when the government also makes a lot of policies that will be looked upon favourable by the voters, and thus help the government in their plight to be re-elected. But it must also be acknowledged, that not all large groups such as unions, are given whatever they want (as we saw with the transport union earlier on this year during the Grand Prix) especially if it will be a burden to the rest of society.
In general, the purpose of government is to add value to the lives of the people it serves, and through good policy making, this can be achieved. Policies should express and embody society’s needs and values, and this is achieved through the comprehensive use of politics involving cooperation from groups outside the government body.
Davis, G, Wanna, J, "Public
Policy in Australia", Allen & Unwin, 1993
MacDonald, A.M, "Chambers Dictionary", T&A Constable Ltd. Edinburgh, 1980
Moore, B, "How you can make a difference", IOWA State University, 1996
Author unknown, "Policy - a definition" Internet address http://biz.map.com/e17a.html
Author unknown, "What do we mean by public policies?", IOWA State University, Internet address http://www.exnet.iastate.edu/pages/families/html
Written By Evan Sycamnias