Public policies do affect, people either directly or indirectly, on daily basis. In the contemporary world, public policies are inescapable. They confer advantages and disadvantages, cause pleasure, irritation, and pain, and collectively have important consequences for our well-being and happiness. They constitute a significant portion of our environment (Anderson, 2003). Public policy is a contested word, that it does not have a single definition. Different scholars came up with different definitions according to their understanding of the concept. This being so, the essay outlines different definitions of public policy, how policies are formed and eventually the paper discusses some of the major types of public policy.
Policy: A policy is a statement by government, at whatever level, of what it intends to do about a public problem. Such statements can be found in the Constitution, statutes, regulation, case law (that is, court decisions), agency or leadership decisions, or even in changes in the behavior of government officials at all levels. For example, a law that says that those caught driving while intoxicated will go to jail for up to one year is a statement of governmental policy to punish drunk drivers (Birkland, 2015). Anderson defines policy as a relatively stable, purposive course of action followed by an actor or matter of concern. This definition focuses on what is actually done instead of what is only proposed or intended; differentiates a policy from a decision, which is essentially a specific choice among alternatives; and views policy as something that unfolds over time.
A public policy is whatever governments choose to do or not to do (Dye, 2013). It is a decision made by government to either act, or not to act in order to resolve a problem. Public policy is a course of action that guides a range of related actions in a given field. They rarely tackle one problem, but rather deal with clusters of entangled and long-term problems. Public policy provides guidance to governments and accountability links to citizens. Decision making is clouded by values, rather than based purely on objective data. Most issues tend to involve deeply held values/ interests and large amounts of money, making the policy process very complex (Melissa Mackay). Operational definition of public policy may be viewed as: a skillful, comprehensive, enforceable, binding, legitimate, authoritative, deliberate and purposeful framework of and for interaction within which a multiplicity of policy decisions by political office bearers can be made and various courses of action can be put into operation by public officials (administrative, technical and operational officials and workers) in order to realize the predetermined governmental aims and objectives as economically, efficiently and effectively as possible (Marume, 1988). Governments do many things. They regulate conflict within society; they organize society to carry on conflict with other societies; they distribute a great variety of symbolic rewards and material services to members of the society; and they extract money from society, most often in the form of taxes. Thus, public policies may regulate behavior, organize bureaucracies, distribute benefits, or extract taxes or all of these things at once (Dye, 2013).
It is not simply one political office bearer or public official who deals with all the aspects of policy making. Therefore, public policy is based on contributions made by political office bearers and public officials at various levels of the official hierarchy and even on contributions made by private concerns. Although a decision still has to be taken at one or other stage by a specific political office bearer such as a town council, a minister, or an institution such as the cabinet, or Parliament, the final decision will always be based on knowledge, experience and factual information obtained from a variety of sources (Marume, 1988).
Three Major Types of Public Policy
Involve the granting of some sort of benefit to a particular interest group or other well-defined, relatively small group of beneficiaries; this is a type of policy that takes a resource from a broad group of people and gives the resource to a narrower group. Examples such policies include farm subsidies and federal spending on local infrastructure projects such as dams, ?ood control systems, aviation, highways, and schools (Birkland, 2015).
In general terms, are policies that are intended to govern the conduct of business. There are two broad types of regulatory policies. Competitive regulatory policy involves policies which are designed to limit the provision of goods and services to one or a few designated deliverers, who are chosen from a larger number of competing potential deliverers. This system ensures professional oversight of the activities of professionals, who must be trained and regulated to assure competent service to their clients. The licensing of various professions, and of radio and TV stations, are examples of such policies. Protective regulatory policy, on the other hand, is intended to protect the public at large from the negative effects of private activity, such as tainted food, air pollution, unsafe consumer products, or fraudulent business transactions (Birkland, 2015).
Is highly controversial, involving the highest levels of government and the leaders of what are called peak associations in policy making characterized by a high level of con?ict and difficulty in changing policy. Redistributive policy is categorized by actions intended to manipulate the allocation of wealth, property, personal or civil rights, or some other valued item among social classes or racial groups. Examples include welfare, civil rights for racial or social minorities, aid to poor cities or schools, and so on (Birkland, 2015).
Efforts to come up with a single definition of public policy has proved impossible, all the alternatives of the definition suggest that public policy making is public, as such, it affects a greater variety of people and interests than do private decisions. This is why government and the policies made by government are sometimes so controversial, frustrating, and at the same time very important. But because the public is the source of political authority that is, the authority to act on the public’s behalf, it is clear that government is at the center of efforts to make public policy.