Public policy is an old concept just as the government itself. Any form of government whether, oligarchy, monarchy, aristocracy, tyranny, democracy and so forth, when and where governments have existed, have been formation and implementation of public policies. To solve varied problems and demands of the citizens the government has to create several policies, these policies are called public policies. This essay tries to explain the meaning of public policy.
There are numerous studies in relation to the public policy and some scholars have attempted to describe public policy from different angles. Before explaining the meaning of public policy, let us first go through some of its definitions. Robert Eyestone conditions public policy as “the relationship of government unit to its environment. Thomas R. Dye says that “public policy is whatever government chooses to do or not to do” Richard Rose says that”public policy is not a decision, it is a course or pattern of activity. In Carl J. Friedrich?s opinion public policy is a proposed course of action of a person, group, or government within a given environment providing opportunities and obstacles which the policy was proposed to utilize and overcome in an effort to reach a goal. Dye (2011) defines public policy as whatever governments choose to do or not to do. Dimock, et. al. (1983:40) sees public policy as “deciding at any time or place what objectives and substantive measures should be chosen in order to deal with a particular problem”. Chandler and Plano (1988:40) define public policy as “the strategic use of resources to alleviate national problems or governmental concerns”. Freeman and Sherwoods (1968) posit that it is the public response to the interest in improving the human conditions. In these definitions there is difference between what governments decide to do and what they will do. Public policy is a guide which government has designed for direction and practice in certain problem areas.
Policy and Goals
To understand the meaning of policy in a better manner, it is very significant to create a distinction flanked by policy and goals. Goals are what policies aim at or hope to achieve. A goal is a desired state of affairs that a society or an organization attempts to realize. Goals can be understood in a diversity of perspectives. These can be thought of as abstract values that a society would like to acquire. There are also goals that are specific and concrete. Removal of poverty is a goal that the government wants to pursue. Public policies are concerned with such specific goals.
They are the instruments which lead to the achievement of these goals. If the government announces that its goal is to give housing to all the members „of the deprived sections of society it does not become a public policy. It is a statement of intention of what the government wants to do. Several a times the government, for political causes, announces goals that it has little desire to achieve. In order to become a policy, the goal has to be translated into action. Programmes have to be intended to achieve specific objectives. As an illustration, let us look at the policy of poverty alleviation. Many programmes have been intended for this, e.g., The integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), The National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) etc. Each programme has certain goals to achieve within a specified time and each programme is provided with financial possessions and administrative personnel. These become concrete efforts to achieve a goal. Policy spells out the strategy of achieving a goal. Therefore policy is essentially an instrument to achieve a goal. Statement of goal docs not creates it a policy.
Policies and Decisions
A distinction needs to be drawn flanked by a policy and a decision also. Several a times the conditions are used interchangeably but that is not the correct usage. Individuals, organizations or government are constantly taking decisions. But all the decisions that are taken cannot be described as matters of policy. The essential core of decision-making is to create a choice from the
alternatives accessible in order to take an action, if there is only one course of action accessible then there is nothing one can choose from and so, no decision can be taken. A decision can be taken only when there is more than one alternative accessible. Therefore a decision is the act of making a choice. The whole science of decision-making has been developed in order to analyze the circumstances that can improve this activity and how a decision maker can improve his choice through expanding the number of alternatives accessible to him.
There can be two types of decisions, programmed and none programmed. Programmed decisions are repetitive and do not require a fresh consideration every time they are taken. These decisions are routine in nature and for these definite procedures can be worked out. Each decision need not be dealt with separately. In programmed decisions, habits, skills, and knowledge in relation to the problem are significant. For instance, once the decision to open the library from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. is taken, it does not require fresh consideration to keep it open throughout those hours. The decision is incorporated into procedures that are recognized for the purpose. Non programmed decisions are new and unstructured. No well laid-out methods are accessible for such decisions, each issue or question is to be dealt with separately. Such decisions are required in the situations of unprecedented nature, for instance breakdown of an epidemic, occurrence of earthquake, etc. Training in skills, needed for such decisions and innovative skill become relevant in this regard. Both the programmed and non programmed decisions have to be taken in a broad framework or course of action.
Public policy is the broad direction or perspective that the government lays down in order to take decisions. Each organization or the individual is enjoined to take a decision within a policy framework. Decision can be a one time action. Policy consists of many decisions that are taken to fulfill its aims. A policy consists of a series of decisions tied jointly into a coherent whole. There can be some parallel in the processes involved in decision making and policy making. Both are concerned with choice in the middle of alternatives
and for both similar processes can be followed in generating alternatives. But we should always keep in mind that policy is a more comprehensive term, as it encompasses a series of decisions and has a comparatively longer time perspective.