Elements of Public Policy

The governmental action of any nation can be understood in terms of several basic elements of public policy. Many factors, or inputs, influence the development of public policy. Government may determine its course of action on the basis of economic or foreign policy concerns, domestic political pressure from constituents and interest groups, technical information, and ideas that have emerged in national politics. Public policy also may be influenced by technical studies of complex issues such as taxation or the development of new technologies such as fiber optic electronics. All of these inputs can help shape what the government chooses to do and how it chooses to do it.

Public policy goals can be noble and high-minded or narrow and self-serving. National values, such as freedom, democracy, and equal opportunity for citizens to share in economic prosperity—that is, high-minded public policy goals—have led to the adoption of civil rights laws assistance programs for those in need. Narrow, self-serving goals are more evident when nations decide how tax legislation will allocate the burden of taxes among various interests and income groups. Public policy goals may vary widely, but it is always important to inquire: what public goals are being served by this action?

Governments use different public policy tools, or instruments, to achieve their policy goals. In general, the instruments of public policy are those combinations of incentives and penalties that government uses to prompt citizens, including businesses, to act in ways that achieve policy goals. Governmental regulatory powers are broad and constitute one of the most formidable instruments for accomplishing public purposes.

Public policy actions always have effects. Some are intended, others are unintended. Because public policies affect many people, organizations, and other interests, it is almost inevitable that such actions will please some and displease others. Regulations may cause businesses to improve the way toxic substances are used in the workplace, thus reducing health risks to employees. Yet it is possible that other goals may be obstructed as an unintended effect of compliance with such regulations.

In assessing any public policy, it is important for managers to develop answers to four questions:

  • What inputs will affect the public policy?
  • What goals are to be achieved?
  • What instruments are being used to achieve goals?
  • What effects, intended and unintended, are likely to occur?

The answers to these questions provide a foundation for understanding how any nation’s public policy actions will affect the economy and business sector.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.