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A policy is a plan of action to guide decisions and actions. The term may apply to government, private sector organizations and groups, and individuals. The policy process includes the identification of different alternatives, such as programs or spending priorities, and choosing among them on the basis of the impact they will have. Policies can be understood as political, management, financial, and administrative mechanisms arranged to reach explicit goals.

Goals of Policy[edit | edit source]

The goals of policy making vary widely according to the organization and the context in which they are made. Broadly, policies are typically instituted in order to avoid some negative effect that has been noticed in the organization, or to seek some positive benefit.

Policy Cycle[edit | edit source]

In politology the policy cycle is a tool used for the analysing of the development of a policy item. It can also be referred to as a "stagist approach". It includes the following stages:

  1. Agenda setting
  2. Policy formation
  3. Decision-making
  4. Policy implementation
  5. Policy evaluation (continue or terminate)

Policy typology[edit | edit source]

Policy addresses the intent of the organization, (whether government, business, professional, or voluntary). Typically, policy is intended to affect the ‘real’ world, by guiding the decisions that are made impacting the real world. Most organizations have identified policies (whether formally written or not).

Policies may be classified in many different ways. The following is a sample of several different types of policies broken down by their effect on members of the organization.

Distributive policies[edit | edit source]

Distributive policies extend goods and services to members of an organization, as well as distributing the costs of the goods/services amongst the members of the organization. Examples include: government policies that impact spending for public education, highways, and public safety, or a professional organization's policy on membership training.

Regulatory policies[edit | edit source]

Regulatory policies, or mandates, limit the discretion of individuals and agencies, or otherwise compel certain types of behavior. These policies are generally thought to be best applied in situations where good behavior can be easily defined and bad behavior can be easily regulated and punished through fines or sanctions. An example of a fairly successful public regulatory policy is that of a speed limit.

Constituent policies[edit | edit source]

Constituent policies create executive power entities, or deal with laws.

Miscellaneous policies[edit | edit source]

Policies are dynamic; they are not just static lists of goals or laws. Policy blueprints have to be implemented, often with unexpected results. Social policies are what happens ‘on the ground’ when they are implemented, as well as what happens at the decision making or legislative stage.

When the term policy is used, it may also refer to:

  • Official government policy (legislation or guidelines that govern how laws should be put into operation)
  • Broad ideas and goals in political manifestos and pamphlets
  • A company or organization’s policy on a particular topic. For example, the equal opportunity policy of a company shows that the company aims to treat all its staff equally.

There is often a gulf between stated policy (i.e. which actions the organization intends to take) and the actions the organization actually takes. This difference is sometimes caused by political compromise over policy, while in other situations it is caused by lack of policy implementation and enforcement. Implementing policy may have unexpected results, stemming from a policy whose reach extends further than the problem it was originally crafted to address. Additionally, unpredictable results may arise from selective or idiosyncratic enforcement of policy.

Types of policy include:

  • Causal (resp. non-causal)
  • Deterministic (resp. stochastic, randomized and sometimes non-deterministic)
  • Index
  • Memoryless (e.g. non-stationary)
  • Opportunistic (resp. non-opportunistic)
  • Stationary (resp. non-stationary)

These qualifiers can be combined, so for example you could have a stationary-memoryless-index policy.

Other uses of the term policy[edit | edit source]

  • In insurance, policies are contracts between insurer and insured used to indemnify (protect) against potential loss from specified perils. While these documents are referred to as policies, they are in actuality a form of contract - see insurance contract.
  • In gambling, policy is a form of an unsanctioned lottery, where players purport to purchase insurance against a chosen number being picked by a legitimate lottery.
  • In artificial intelligence planning and reinforcement learning, a policy prescribes a non-empty deliberation (sequence of actions) given a non-empty sequence of states.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Blakemore, Ken (1998) Social Policy: an Introduction
  • Müller, Pierre, Surel Yves, (1998) L'analyse des politiques publiques. Paris.
  • Theodore J. Lowi (1964), American Business, Public Policy, Case-Studies, and Political Theory, World Politics 16: 687-713.
  • Theodore J. Lowi (1968), Four Systems of Policy, Politics, and Choice, Public Administration Review 33: 298-310.
  • Theodore J. Lowi (1985), The State in Politics, in Roger Noll (a cura di), Regulatory Policy and the social Sciences, Berkeley, UCP, pp. 67-110
  • Robert Spitzer, Promoting Policy Theory: Revising the Arenas of Power, Policy Studies Journal 15 (June 1987): 675-689.
  • Aynsley Kellow, Promoting Elegance in Policy Theory: Simplifying Lowi’s Arenas of Power, Policy Studies Journal 16 (Summer 1988): 713-724.
  • Douglas D. Heckathorn; Steven M. Maser (1990), The Contractual Architecture of Public Policy: A Critical Reconstruction of Lowi's Typology, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 52, No. 4. , pp. 1101-1123.
  • Smith K. B. (2002), Typologies, Taxonomies, and the Benefits of Policy Classification , Policy Studies Journal, vol. 30, pp. 379-395-
  • George D. Greenberg et al, Developing Public Policy Theory: Perspectives from Empirical Research, American Political Science Review 71 (December 1977): 1532-1543.
  • Thomas R. Dye (1976) Policy Analysis University of Alabama Press.

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