“While the study of politics has a long history, the systematic study of public policy as we understand it is a recent discipline. Daniel McCool argues that modern policy studies began in 1922, when political scientist Charles Merriam sought to connect the theory and practice of politics to understanding the actual activities of government. Despite the attempt by a large number of authors to define the concept of policy, no one has managed to impose one specific definition” (Lerner and Lasswell, 1951). By 1972, Public Policy’s definitions were more than forty (Dye, 1972). Thomas Dye argues that this search for a definition of public policy can degenerate into a word game that, eventually, adds little more understanding. It may be fruitless
to look for one particular definition of public policy, and it is certainly not useful to continue to develop more definitions (Dye, 1972). Therefore, this essay looks at some of the definitions of Public Policy that authors have defined. These definitions of Public Policy are like Public Police as whatever the government chooses to do or not to do, Public Policy as relatively stable, purposive course of action followed by an actor or set of actors in dealing with a problem or a matter of concern, Public Policy as an output, Public Policy as outcome. Public policies also emerge as response to policy demands, or those claims for action or inaction on some public issue made by other actors-private citizens, group representatives, or legislators and other public officials-upon government officials and agencies
First, Public Policy may be viewed as whatever the government chooses to do or not to do (Dye. Thomas R. 1972).The government for example may choose to embark on the programme of empowering every household to produce one graduate. This can be achieved by putting in place good measures to make sure that this programme is eventually realized. Some of things that government can do to achieve this programme are like introducing free education from primary up to secondary and providing loans to those who are selected to university and constructing more secondary schools and university inorder to increase the intake of students in these institutions. The government can also opt not to do the programmes that were scheduled or were in pipeline to be done. For instance, there can be suggestions to confiscate the idle lands from the owners and distribute them to those who have no lands to cultivate. The government upon sensing the negative aftermath of this action may decide not to implement that it.
Second, Public Policy is defined as relatively stable, purposive course of action followed by an actor or set of actors in dealing with a problem or a matter of concern. This definition focuses much on what is actually done instead of what is only proposed or intended (Anderson, 1975).This definition shows that for this policy to come into action there must be a goal at hand rather than working at random or by chance of occurrences. Soon after attained multiparty type of government, Malawi government introduced a free primary education with the aim of increase the enrollment rate of children in primary schools. As per plan, the number of children who were enrolled in primary schools increased a thing that prompted the government to employ many primary teachers as well. Another policy of male circumsion was initiated due to the problem of high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS. This policy allows all adult male persons to visit the hospitals where this exercise is taking place inorder to be circumcised. It is evidenced according to research that those who undergo circumsion have high chance of not getting or giving a virus that causes AIDS than those who are not circumcised (Szabo R.2000).So, this programme is intending to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rate. According to Mosquito Nets Distribution Report of 2010 state that the free distribution of mosquito nets is also a public policy that was adopted in 2006 targeting pregnant women and under-five children in order to improve coverage among the rural communities. So, to deal away with the problem of Malaria the government decided to initiate this policy of distributing free mosquito nets.
Third, Public Policy is defined as an output. Public Policy as an output is different from Public Policy as an outcome that focuses on the policy’s societal consequences (Anderson, 2003) .Public Policy as output or the action actually taken in pursuance of a policy decision and a statement. This Policy focuses on what the government has delivered. With Public Policy as output, the government does not expect any effects from them rather than just focusing on how much have been delivered. For example, how much taxes have been collected, how many miles of roads have been constructed, in trade how many barriers in trade have been removed how much traffic fines have been collected. However, this policy differs with policy as an outcome because with policy as output evaluation is simple than with policy as outcome. This policy becomes easy to evaluate than policy as an outcome.
Fourth, Public Policy as outcome Anderson (2011). This policy focuses on the results of programs that have been delivered. For example, the government may seek to see if giving long sentences to law breakers can reduce crime rate. As nowadays, the government is giving long sentences to those found guilty of serious offences. By doing this program the government aims to reduce crimes through deterrence where would be criminals will stop committing offences fearing the long sentences. The government may wish to know if increasing the traffic police officers with speed trap cameras on all roads can reduce road accidents. If high taxes are introduced to all used cars can really reduce air pollution. Here, the government is just interested with the results that can be achieved after implementation of these policies.
Fifth, Public policies emerge in response to policy demands, or those claims for action or inaction on some public issue made by other actors-private citizens, group representatives, or legislators and other public officials-upon government officials and agencies (Hogwood and Gunn, 1984). The Chiefs from Nkhotakota and Lilongwe asked government to intervene in protecting the forests from the deforestation in their areas. Forest Policy gives powers to the soldiers to take part in guarding the forests. With the demand from traditional leaders and powers conferred upon them by the Forest Policy, that was why the government deployed soldiers in Dzalanyama and Chikangawa forests. The government did that in responding to demands from various stakeholders asking the protection of these forests from the government.
Finally, 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 that the policy was proposed to utilise and overcome in an effort to reach a goal to realize an objective or purpose (Friedrich, 1963). Public Policies are proposals brought from either a person or groups of people even the government itself. For example, a person may propose Malawi to adopt a federal government where each region should have an overwhelming authority in transacting the activities without relying on directives from the central government. In proposing such programme, a person can unveil the opportunities that may be found if this policy is implemented.
This paper has tried to define what Public Policy is. Public Policy has many definitions that different authors have defined and this essay has just brought only a few from these definitions. These definitions are the ones that have been explained above like Public Policy is defined as an output, Public Policy as outcome and others.
Anderson, J.E.1993. Public policymaking: an introduction, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1975.
Anderson, James E. 1993. Public Policy Making. Fifth Edition Praeger: New York
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c David Nachmias, Public Policy Evaluation: Approaches and Methods (New Dror Yehezkel, 1968. Public Policy Making Re-examined, Chandler. PennsyloniaDye, Understanding Public Policy. 7th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1992).
Dye. Thomas R. 1972. Understanding Public Policy. Prentice Hall. Englewoodcliff Thomas R.
Friedrich Carl J, Man and His Government (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), p. 70
Frohock. Fred M. 1979. Public Policy: Scope and Logic. Prentice Hall.EnglewoodcliffHogwood and Gunn, L, 1984, Policy analysis for the real world, Oxford: OUP.
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Saigal Krishan, 1983. Policy Making in India : An Approach to Optimisation, Vikas: New Delhi. 13
Szabo R. How does male circumcision protect against HIV infection. BMJ 2000; 320:1592-4.Available from:www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/320/7249/1592.York: St. Martin’s, 1979), p. 5.