EXPLAINING THE MEANING OF PUBLIC POLICY 1

EXPLAINING THE MEANING OF PUBLIC POLICY
1.0 INTRODUCTION
Public policy is the heart, soul and identity of governments everywhere. Policies are developed in
several ways and on different levels. Any democratic government has a role to elevate the living
standards of people it serves and this is possible to a government with properly and well defined
policies regarding every aspect of all actions it targets to accomplish. (Hannekon and Rowland,
1966.) While Hannekon and Rowland view a policy as an indicati on of a goal, a particular purpose,
a plan of action that has been decided upon, Baldwin (1976) defines policy as a formulation of
rules, norms and prescriptions intended to govern the subsequent decisions and actions of
government. Like the idea of public , the concept of policy is not precise term. It simply denotes
guidance for action. It is therefore, in the scope of this essay to provide the meanings of the term
public policy as per interpreted by several scholars using different contexts.

2.0 DESCRIPT ION OF PUBLIC POLICY
As a point of departure, public policy can be understood as any initiative that a government opts
to do or not. A government can decide to have an action or not in order to get rid of a problem.
(Dye, 1972). The significance of public policy cannot be over emphasized. In any given field, it
acts as a course of action that helps to guide a range of related actions. Public policy does not only
deal with a single problem, but also tackles cluster of entangled and long term issues. Accessor y
to that, Public policy plays a greater role to citizens through its provision of accountability link
and guidance to governments. (Fredrick, 1963)

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Hoogwood and Gunn (1984) suggest that one can understand public policy via consequences of
measures. This is the context where public policy can be interpreted directly as outputs and
indirectly as outcome results of policy measures. It is emphasized that the outputs and outcomes
are two different approaches to public policies meaning. However, one can choose to understand
the concepts as a result of implementation of policies and not interpreting them as definitions.

Public policy according to Brooks (1989) is understood as the development of decisions by
government, from the broad framework of ideas and valu es to act or not as a way of tackling issues

of public interests. For example, when the government wants to deal with poverty, a situation
which might affect the masses and not simply an individual, it adopts a broad framework of ideas
and values from seve ral actors from which it relies for the delivery of its goal and later decides on
the way forward as to how best an issue of public interest can be dealt with. This is in the same
line of thought with Boyd (2000) who also puts it that public policies are s imply government
decisions actions designed to solve issues of public concerns. Boyd adds that public policy is an
overall frame work within which government takes actions to accomplish the goals of citizens. As
a concept, is filtered through a specific pr ocess of policy, adopted, implemented through laws,
regularly measures courses of government actions and finding priorities and enforced by public
agency. (2000)

Fredrick (1963) has it that public policy is viewed as a deliberate and normally a careful de cision
used by government to tackle the chosen concerns of the public. It helps in the identification of
goals and concerns by the public. Public policy formulation however, not a simple or simplistic
process and public policy issues are also far more comp lex. Its effects are not simply on an
individual, rather, a group of people or even a population entirely. Fredrick further explains that
“The complexity of public policy is also viewed in its focus upon isssues of greater consequence.
For example, the o bjective might include protecting the environment, promoting healthy child
development, reducing poverty and revitalizing neighborhoods.” (2000)

In addition, Public policy is also said to be defined as a theoretical model for an assessment of
government a ctivities and their consequences in trying to involve several circumstances. It is not
a system of decisions neither is it that of an individual.( Leslie,2005) There is a close relationship
between public policy and public management more especially in the implementation stage where
civil servants have higher or lower level of discretion in making decisions and have the ability to
come up with several practices to implement policies. (Hogwood and Gunn, 1984)

According to Brooks (1989), public policy is a s ocial political space constructed as much through
techniques and instruments as through aims and content. Its instrument constitutes social and
technical device that arranges particular social relations between the state and people it addresses
due to repr esentation and meanings it has. The concept of public policy instruments enables people

to move beyond the functionalist context and view public policy from the perspective of
instruments that structure policies.
John Peter (1998) in his work “Analyzing p ublic policy” has also described public policy as a
principled guide used by the administration of executive branches of the states in accordance with
a class of issues but in a situation which is in line with the law and institutional customs. Peter
adds that “constitutional laws and regulations are the components of the platform of public policy.
(1998)

3.0 CONCLUSION
To sum up, public policy development is an iterative process rather than a linear one. There are
key phases which result in public poli cy. The emergence of a problem that requires the attention
of the public and decision makers, placing this problem on governments agenda in order to find
solutions, formulation of alternative to resolve the problem, an adoption of policy and the
implementa tion and evaluation of the policy. Other actors that contribute to public policy often in
network on which government relies for the delivery of complex policy goals are public servants,
political parties, cabinet, media, interest group, legal systems and public. A close study of the
public policy reveals that the importance is rendered on the concept “public” in line with public
interest, public opinion and public sector. This therefore, entails that the concept purports to work
for the benefit of the sphe res of the masses or citizens unlike the private. Though there are endless
debates regarding what is public and private, yet public policy is designed to serve the public not
private.( Hogwood and Gunn, 1984)

EXPLAINING THE MEANING OF PUBLIC POLICY
1.0 INTRODUCTION
Public policy is the heart, soul and identity of governments everywhere. Policies are developed in
several ways and on different levels. Any democratic government has a role to elevate the living
standards of people it serves and this is possible to a government with properly and well defined
policies regarding every aspect of all actions it targets to accomplish. (Hannekon and Rowland,
1966.) While Hannekon and Rowland view a policy as an indicati on of a goal, a particular purpose,
a plan of action that has been decided upon, Baldwin (1976) defines policy as a formulation of
rules, norms and prescriptions intended to govern the subsequent decisions and actions of
government. Like the idea of public , the concept of policy is not precise term. It simply denotes
guidance for action. It is therefore, in the scope of this essay to provide the meanings of the term
public policy as per interpreted by several scholars using different contexts.

2.0 DESCRIPT ION OF PUBLIC POLICY
As a point of departure, public policy can be understood as any initiative that a government opts
to do or not. A government can decide to have an action or not in order to get rid of a problem.
(Dye, 1972). The significance of public policy cannot be over emphasized. In any given field, it
acts as a course of action that helps to guide a range of related actions. Public policy does not only
deal with a single problem, but also tackles cluster of entangled and long term issues. Accessor y
to that, Public policy plays a greater role to citizens through its provision of accountability link
and guidance to governments. (Fredrick, 1963)

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For You For Only $13.90/page!


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Hoogwood and Gunn (1984) suggest that one can understand public policy via consequences of
measures. This is the context where public policy can be interpreted directly as outputs and
indirectly as outcome results of policy measures. It is emphasized that the outputs and outcomes
are two different approaches to public policies meaning. However, one can choose to understand
the concepts as a result of implementation of policies and not interpreting them as definitions.

Public policy according to Brooks (1989) is understood as the development of decisions by
government, from the broad framework of ideas and valu es to act or not as a way of tackling issues

of public interests. For example, when the government wants to deal with poverty, a situation
which might affect the masses and not simply an individual, it adopts a broad framework of ideas
and values from seve ral actors from which it relies for the delivery of its goal and later decides on
the way forward as to how best an issue of public interest can be dealt with. This is in the same
line of thought with Boyd (2000) who also puts it that public policies are s imply government
decisions actions designed to solve issues of public concerns. Boyd adds that public policy is an
overall frame work within which government takes actions to accomplish the goals of citizens. As
a concept, is filtered through a specific pr ocess of policy, adopted, implemented through laws,
regularly measures courses of government actions and finding priorities and enforced by public
agency. (2000)

Fredrick (1963) has it that public policy is viewed as a deliberate and normally a careful de cision
used by government to tackle the chosen concerns of the public. It helps in the identification of
goals and concerns by the public. Public policy formulation however, not a simple or simplistic
process and public policy issues are also far more comp lex. Its effects are not simply on an
individual, rather, a group of people or even a population entirely. Fredrick further explains that
“The complexity of public policy is also viewed in its focus upon isssues of greater consequence.
For example, the o bjective might include protecting the environment, promoting healthy child
development, reducing poverty and revitalizing neighborhoods.” (2000)

In addition, Public policy is also said to be defined as a theoretical model for an assessment of
government a ctivities and their consequences in trying to involve several circumstances. It is not
a system of decisions neither is it that of an individual.( Leslie,2005) There is a close relationship
between public policy and public management more especially in the implementation stage where
civil servants have higher or lower level of discretion in making decisions and have the ability to
come up with several practices to implement policies. (Hogwood and Gunn, 1984)

According to Brooks (1989), public policy is a s ocial political space constructed as much through
techniques and instruments as through aims and content. Its instrument constitutes social and
technical device that arranges particular social relations between the state and people it addresses
due to repr esentation and meanings it has. The concept of public policy instruments enables people

to move beyond the functionalist context and view public policy from the perspective of
instruments that structure policies.
John Peter (1998) in his work “Analyzing p ublic policy” has also described public policy as a
principled guide used by the administration of executive branches of the states in accordance with
a class of issues but in a situation which is in line with the law and institutional customs. Peter
adds that “constitutional laws and regulations are the components of the platform of public policy.
(1998)

3.0 CONCLUSION
To sum up, public policy development is an iterative process rather than a linear one. There are
key phases which result in public poli cy. The emergence of a problem that requires the attention
of the public and decision makers, placing this problem on governments agenda in order to find
solutions, formulation of alternative to resolve the problem, an adoption of policy and the
implementa tion and evaluation of the policy. Other actors that contribute to public policy often in
network on which government relies for the delivery of complex policy goals are public servants,
political parties, cabinet, media, interest group, legal systems and public. A close study of the
public policy reveals that the importance is rendered on the concept “public” in line with public
interest, public opinion and public sector. This therefore, entails that the concept purports to work
for the benefit of the sphe res of the masses or citizens unlike the private. Though there are endless
debates regarding what is public and private, yet public policy is designed to serve the public not
private.( Hogwood and Gunn, 1984)

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