MAKING PUBLIC POLICY
One of government’s primary roles is to make policy that will solve society’s problems.
In the United States all three branches of government and the bureaucracy make policy.
Many other organizations try to influence government decisions and programs, including
special interest groups, research institutes, corporations, state and local governments, as
well as individual citizens.
THE POLICYMAKING PROCESS
The policymaking process regularly makes news headlines, but it is not easy to
understand how the overall process works.
Every policy has a unique history, but each
one generally goes through five basic stages:
Recognizing the problem/agenda setting -
Almost no policy is made unless and
until a need is recognized.
Many different groups and people may bring a
problem or issue to the government’s attention through interest group activities or
People within the government itself have their own agendas that they
push, including the president, bureaucratic agencies, and members of Congress.
Of course, these sources do not agree on which issues are most important, so
getting the government to set an agenda that prioritizes problems is quite a
ormulating the policy –
If enough people agree that government needs to act,
then a plan of action must be formulated.
At this stage, generally several
alternative plans from various political groups are formed.
For example, if the
issue is gun control, interest groups from both sides will push for different
solutions, and reaching a solution almost always involves compromise all around.
Adopting the policy -
In this third stage, the policy becomes an official action by
It may take the form of legislation, an executive or bureaucratic
order, or a court decision.
Policy is often built in a series of small steps passed
over time, so this stage may be quite complex.
Implementing the policy –
For an adopted policy to be effective, government
must see that it is applied to real situations.
For example, if new gun control laws
are set in place, government officials must make sure that the general public
knows about them.
They must also put enforcement in place and see that
violators are punished appropriately.
Evaluating the policy –
Evaluation of the good or the harm created by a policy
usually takes place over an extended period of time.
Policies that may seem
sound at the start may have unforeseen negative consequences or unexpected
Inevitably, some will call for changes and/or corrections, and others will