I’ve changed the name of this post to better introduce the ‘Key policy theories and concepts in 1000 words’ series (https://paulcairney.wordpress.com/1000-words/), link to a longer introduction (https://paulcairney.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/12-things-to-know-about-studying-public-policy/) and, super cunningly, to do better in google searches.
The first thing we do when studying public policy is to try to define it – as, for example, the sum total of government action, from signals of intent to the final outcomes. This sort of definition produces more questions:
- Does ‘government action’ include what policymakers say they will do as well as what they actually do? An unfulfilled promise may not always seem like policy.
- Does it include the effects of a decision as well as the decision itself? A policy outcome may not resemble the initial policy aims.
- What is ‘the government’ and does it include elected and unelected policymakers? Many individuals, groups and organisations influence policy and help carry it out.
- Does public policy include what policymakers do not do. Policy is about power, which is often exercised to keep important issues off the public, media and government agenda.
The second thing we do is point to…
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