Law and public Policy

Policy made simple

Textbook, 2013

49 Pages



In recent years, governments of most developing countries have expressed renewed concern about improving the performance of their services in the view of the important and increasing role played by them in the strategies for national development. The rise in the expectation of the people has compelled them to adopt policies for alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life of all section of society. The basic needs of the people are needed to be met on an urgent basis. To realize these objectives, the Government of developing countries have to struggle to balance their economy, effect sustained improvement in their social system and increase the capacity of their political system. They have therefore to ensure improvement in the relevant policies. It is taken for granted that the approaches, strategies and concepts which will contribute to this are essential. The study of Public Policy represents a pioneer approach for this purpose.

The field of Public Policy has assured considerable importance in response to the increasing complexity of technology, social Organization, industrialization and urbanization. It is not only concerned with the description and explanation of the causes and consequences of Government activity but also with developing, scientific knowledge about the forces shaping Public Policy. The study of Public Policy helps understand the prevailing in society. Public Policy is an important mechanism for moving a social system from the past to the future. At helps us cope with the future.

This book attempts to bridge the gap between the conditional academic approaches to the study of Government and thereby to relate these approaches to the outputs of Government and thereby to relate those approaches to the output of Government, namely, Public Policies. This study deals with the substantive examination of policy users, including policy – making and implementation and the evaluation of public policy.



Public Policy is a concept now much in urge which a Public Policy critically emanates from the state institution, it may be implemented through, and diverted at, a wide variety of individuals and organization which may or may not be part of the state apparatus.

Thomas Dye, a leading scholar of policy analysis, says “Tradition (political service) described the institution in which Public Policy was formulated. But unfortunately the linkages between important institutional arrangement and the content of Public Policy were easily lord. He further believes that today the power of political science is shifting to Public Policy – “to the description and explanation of the causes and consequences of government activity”.

In the past studies on Public Policies have been dominated by scholars of political science and Public Administration and have tended to concentrate more on the content of Policy, the process of its formulation and its implementation. Today, the study of Public Policy has evolved into what is actually a new branch of social science – the so called policing services, forwarded by Harld hasswell in 1957.

Meaning of Policy

This denotes, among other things, guidance for action. It may take the form of:

- A declaration of goods and objectives;
- A declaration of courses of action; and
- A declaration on societal value.

Policy is defined in the New Oxford Dictionary of English as “a course of action or principal of action adopted or proposed by a Government, Party, business or Individual”.

From a practitioner’s point of view, policy making has been defined as the process by which Government translate their political vision into programs and action to deliver “outcomes desired in the real world.

Policy can take arrange of different forms including non-intention; regulation, for instance by licensing’s or the encouragement of voluntary changes; or the encouragement of voluntary change; as well as direct public service provision.

According to William Jenkins in policies analysis: if political and organizational respective (1978), a Public Policy is “a set of interacted decisions taken by a particular actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goods and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those divisions should, inpru, be within the province of those actors to achieve”. This Jenkins understands Public Policy making to be a process, and simply a chance Uarke El. Cochran, The Public Policy always refers to the action of Government and the intention that determine those actions. He also says, Public Policy is “the outcome of the struggle in government over who gets what”. Thomas Aye says, public policy is “whatever government chooses to do or not to do”.

B Guy Peters: “stated most simply, public policy is the form of government activities, whether acting directly or through agents, as it has an influence on the life of citizens”

Burklland indicates that the elements common to all definitions of public policy are as follows:

- The policy is made in the name of the public;
- Policy is generally made or initiated by Government;
- Policy is interpreted and implemented by public or priorities actors;
- Policy is what the government intends to do;
- Policy is what the government chooses not to do.

Taken as a whole, policy may be defined as a purposive course of action taken by those in power in pursuit of certain goals or objectives. It’s the authoritative attraction of values for the whole society.

Nature of Public Policy

A policy may be general or specific, broad or narrow, simple or complex, public or private, written or unwritten, explicit or implicit, discretionary or detailed, qualitative or non-qualitative. However the emphasis is on public policy which is what a government chooses as guidance for action.

A public policy may cover a major portion of its activities which are commitment with the development policy. Socio-economic development, equality or liberty or self-reliance or similar broad principles of guidance for action may be adopted as a development policy on national goal.

A public policy may be narrow covering a specific activity, such as family planning. A public policy may also be applied to all people in a country or it may also be applied to a section of its people. There are also “meg policies that contain General guidelines to be followed by all specific policies. According to Anor, Mega policies from a kind of master policy, as district from concrete discrete policies, and involve the establishment of overall goals to serve as guidelines for the larger sets of concrete and specific policies. All policies generally contain definite goal or objectives in more explicit or implicit terms.

Public policies in modern political systems are purposive or goal oriented statements; may be either positive or negative in form, that is in its positive form, may involve some form of over government action to deal with a particular problem; in the negative form, it involves a decision by public servants not to be action on some matter on what a government order is sought. Public policy is based on law and it commands the obedience of the citizens. Public policy has this legally conceive quality that citizens accept as legitimate eg. turkey must be paid unless one wants to run the risk of fines or fail sentence. This legally conceive quality of public policies makes public organization disforet from the private organizations.

Policy Making and Decision Making

Policy making is closely related to division making. Policy making does involve division making, but a division does not necessary constitute a policy.

Anderson said “policy divisions are divisions made by public Officials that authorize or give diversion and content to public policy actions. These may include division to issue expensive orders, pronates administrative rules, or make important judicial interpretation of laws.

Scope of Public Policy

A significant part of the study of public policy consists of the development of scenanors and extrapolations of contemporary trends. Complexity in the growth of the size of government also gave importance in the expansion of the scope of public policy. For example:

“Modern urban man is born in a publicly financed hospital, receives his education in a publicly supported school and utmost spends a good part of his time travelling on publicity built transportation facilities; confiscate through the post office or the public telephone system, drinks his public drinking water etc.

The line of argument developed here is that all us are greatly affected by myriads public policies in our everyday lives. Today, public policies may deal with sub substantive areas as defense, environmental protection medical care and health, education, taxation etc.

Why Study Public Policy

Most countries of third world countries are engaged in the numerous/momentous task of land living national resurgence through socio-economic development. They are struggling heard to develop their economy, to sustain improvements in their social system and to increase their capacity of their political system with a view to achieving the major objective of national development.

They seek to improve the relevant policies. It is therefore, taken for granted that the study of the approaches, strategies and concepts which will contribute towards this end are serrate. The study of public policy represents a powerful approach for this purpose. Public Policy is an important mechanism for moving a social system from the past to the further. The future requires new policies and choices.

Public policy is conditioned by the past. How the present dimensions of public policy in the developing countries engaged, how they now applaud and how the present sustains them are important questions in the study of public policy.

The study of public policy is also of vital importance for the present. At deals with the key definition of a policy problem. It can be noted that the field of public policy has assured considerable importance in response to the increasing complexity of the society. The study of public policy helps to understand the social ills of the subject under study; public policy is an important mechanism for moving a social system from the past to the further.



Questions of policy ultimately rests on the application of know ledger to political decisions. Policy analysis is a technique to measure organizational effectiveness through the examination and satiation of the effect of a program. Policy analysis in this nothing more than estimating the input of a public policy on the government programs.

The dictionary of public Administration defines policy analysis as a systematic and data based alternative to initiative fragments admit the effects of a policy or policy often it is used for:

As problem identification/ assessment and monitoring;

And as a “before the fact” decision pool; and as evaluation.

Policy analysis encourages researchers and practitioners to examine policy owners and decisions with scientific tools. Thomas Aye labels policy analysis as the “thinking man’s response” to demands. He observes that specifically public analysis involves;

a) A primary concern with explanation rather than prescription;
b) A rigorous search for the causes and consequences of public policies;
c) An effort to develop and test general proposition almost the causes and consequences of public policy and to accurate reliable findings of general relevance.

Policy analysis as a technique puts data on use in, or deciding about, estimating and measuring the consequences of public policies. Its purpose is too folded. It provides maximum information with minimal cost about the:

i) The likely consequences of proposed policies, and
ii) The actual consequences of the policies already adopted.

To achieve these two purposes, various methods or approaches are adopted: Among the principal methods are:

i) System analysis and simulation;
ii) Cost benefit analysis;
iii) New approaches to budgeting;
iv) Policy experimentation; and
v) Policy evaluation

Policy analysis is thus an interdisciplinary drawing upon data from other disciplines. It is essentially impact research.

The four key elements that form the girt of policy analysis are;

i) The goals with which policy analysis is concerned;
ii) The means for achieving those goals;
iii) The methods for determining the effects of alternative means on goal achievement, and
iv) The profession of policy analysis which is applying to these methods in relating means to goals.

Policy analysis has come to be recognized as an important technique in assessing policy problems as well as policy impacts. It makes use of the required information in examining, deciding about, and finally measuring the consequences of public policies.

The stages in policy analysis can be fruit as follows:

i) Identifying the underlying program;
ii) Determining alternatives for policy choice;
iii) Forecasting the consequences
iv) Evaluating the outcomes
v) Making a choice

The process of analysis can be summarized as follows:

Problem structuring policy problem policy Attenuation


Policy outcomes Policy problem forecasting

Monitoring Policy Action Policy selection

Limitations of Policy Analysis

1. As the future is always uncertain, it is questionable whether policy analysis can find solution to the problems regarding the future of society. It has been observed that policy analysis is gathering dust because they are either too long or too hard to understand. A policy analysis is of no use if it cannot be communicated to others
2. Policy analysis can’t provide solution to problems when there is no general consensus on what the problems are. It is incapable of resolving societal value conflicts. At best, it can offer advice on low to accomplish a certain set of end values. It cannot determine what those end values should be furthermore; social science research cannot be value free.
3. It is also very difficult for the government to cure all or ever most of the maladies of society. The government is constrained by many tones, both within and outside – such as population growth, patterns of family eye, Clan structures, religion beliefs, diversity of cultures and languages, financial resources etc cannot be easily managed by the government. Some social ills are intractable.
4. There are also the inherent limitations in the design of policy analysis research. If it becomes difficult to conduct some forms of controlled experiments on human beings. Also, it is difficult to separate research from policy implementation.
5. Society’s ills are so complex that analyses are incapable of predicting the impact of proposed policies. Social scientists purely tail to give proper advice to the policy makers owing to lack of knowledge about individual and group behavior, and sometimes offer many contradictory recommendations, an indicator of the absence of reliable scientific knowledge of social problems. Most of society’s ills are shaped by so many forms that a simple explanation of them is hardly possible.

It seems therefore safe to say that social scientists can at least attempt to measure the impact of present and past public policies and make this knowledge available to policy makers. Reason, knowledge and scientific analysis are always better than the absence of any knowledge. Robert line berry notes that policy analysis rests on the assumption that information is better than no information, and that right question are better than no question asked, even when the answers may not be definitive.

Policy analysis may not provide solution to society’s ills but it is still an appropriate tool in approaching policy questions. It enables us to describe and explain the causes and consequences of public policy.

Models for Policy Analysis

1. System Approach

The policy making process has been regarded as a “black box” which converts the demands of the society into policies. The system approach to policy analysis can be shown in the figure below:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Inputs are seen as the physical, social, economic and political products of the environment. They are received into the political system in the form of both demands and supports.

The environment is any condition or event defined as external to the boundaries of the political system. The supports of the political system consist of the rules, laws and customs which provide a basis for the existence of a political community and the authorities. It is rendered when individuals or groups accept the decision or laws. Support are the symbolic or material inputs of a system such as obeying laws, paying taxes, or even respecting the national flag that constitute the psychological and material resources of the system.

At the time of the political system are the institutions and personnel for policy making. These include the Chief Executive Legislators, Judges and bureaucrats. At the systems version they translate inputs into outputs.

Outputs then are the authoritative value allocations of the political system, and these allocations constitute public policy or policies. The concept of seed back indicates that public policy may have a modifying effect on the environment and the demands generated therein and may also have an effect upon the character of the political system. Policy outputs may generate new demands and new support, or with demand of the old support for the system. Feedback brings an important role in generating suitable climates for future policy.

The systems theory is a useful aid in understanding policy making process; and the value of the systems model to policy analysis lies in the question that it poses.

1. What are the significant dimensions of the environment that generate demand from the political system?
2. What are the political characteristics of the political system that enable it to transform demands with public policy and to preserve it over time?
3. How do environment inputs affect the character of the political system?
4. How do the characteristics of the political system affect the content of public policy?
5. How do environmental inputs affect the content of public policy?
6. How does public policy affect, through feedback, the environment and the character of the political system?

2. Institutional Approach to Policy Analysis

In a democratic society, a state is a web of government structures and institutions. The state performance may functions. The positive state is regarded as the guardian of all section of the community. It does not defend the predominance of any particular class or community. It tries to protect all economic interests by accommodating and reconciling them. No organization has ever been able to succeed in its objective anoss the whole range of public policies; and policy issues tend to be resolved in ways generally compatible with the frequencies of the majority of the public.

In the pluralist society, the activities of individuals and groups are generally diverted towards governmental institution such as the legislature, executive, judiciary, political parties etc. Public policy is formulated, implemented and enforced by governmental institutions, in other words, a policy does not take the shape of a public policy unless it is adopted and implemented by the governmental institutions.

Government institutions give public policy three different characteristic; legal authority to policies; the application of public policy is universal; and application of public policy is universal; and involves conversation.

Institutionalism, with its focus on the legal and structural aspects of institutions, can be applied in policy analysis. The structures and estimation and their arrangements and interactions can have significant impact on public policy. Governmental institutions are structured of behavior of individuals and groups which persists over a period of time.

The value of the institutional approach to policy analysis lies in asking what relationships exists between institutional arrangements and the content of public policy, and also in investigating these relationships in a comparative fashion.

3. Rational Policy-making Model

The rationality precept emphasizes that policy making is making a choice among policy attenuates on rational grounds. Rational policy making is “to choose the one best option”. Robert Haveman observes that a rational policy is one which is designed to maximize “net value “achievement”.

A policy is rational when it is most efficient, that is the ratio between the values it achieves and the values it sacrifices is positive and higher than any other policy alternative further, the idea efficiency involves the calculation of all the social, political, and economic values sacrificed or achieved by a public policy, not just those that can be measured in dollars.

However, political policy makers should be rational; it is described that there should be:

i) Identification and determination of grabs;
ii) The ranking of grabs in order of importance;
iii) The identification of possible policy alternative for achieving these grabs; and
iv) The cost – benefit analysis of policy alternatives.

Aror prescribed certain requirements to policy makers in selecting a rational policy. They must:

i) Know all the society’s value preferences and their relative weights;
ii) Know all the policy alternative available;
iii) Know all the consequences of each policy alternative;
iv) Calculate the ratio of achieved: to sacrificed societal values for each policy alternative; and
v) Select the most efficient policy alternative.

A rational model of a decision system

However, rational division making model sets up grabs and procedures that are both naïve and intofrian. Yet, this model remains of critical importance for analytical purposes as it helps to decision depends on having clear and well defined goals as well as sufficient authority to indicate action. The more sharply goals can be defined and the more the authority can be concentrated on achieving them, the more rational decision making can be. The private organizations are never seen operating in this way.



This is concerned with how policy makers take decisions. It is thus concerned with power policy making is essentially a manifestation of power. Power is described as the ability to bring about some change in the behavior of other people. In a social context it is defined as “the capacity of an individual, or a group of individuals, to modify the conducts of other people or group in the manner which he deserves most”. In terms of public policy, power may be defined as the capacity of an individual, or groups, or holders of public officers to determine policy decisions. Such decisions may relate to the choice of individuals for political officers and also to the selection of the different purposive courses of action.

In policy making, power is exercised by different individuals and groups; the cabinet, members of parliament, bureaucrats, and leaders of organized interested individual citizens etc. Each set of forces exercises certain influences, which, taken together, make up the policy making process. This is to say that there is a “process” through which public policy is made. This process consists of the complex interrelationships of the decisions made under the influence of powerful individuals and groups.

The sources of power which effects change in other people’s behavior are many. Policy making is an extremely complex analytical and political process to which there is no beginning or end, and the boundaries of which are most uncertain.


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Law and public Policy
Policy made simple
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Professor Nicholas Sunday (Author), 2013, Law and public Policy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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