14.1 The Policy Making Process
There are several stages in the establishment and carrying out of a policy by the government. These include agenda building, formulation, adoption, implementation, evaluation and termination.
14.1a Agenda building
In order to create a policy, the governments attention has to be focused on a pressing problem requiring legislation. For instance, rivers and streams periodically overflow causing great loss to property and life. Further, winds and rains erode the land and rob it of its fertility. A social demand then arises for taking some action regarding the control and development of river valleys, and the conservation of natural resources. Thus the legitimate public business comprises the agenda of the state. Again, for example, strife between labor and management may disrupt essential services or raise the cost of living. People may then demand the establishment of social machinery for preventing costly work stoppages and for promoting harmonious labor management relations. In modern times, juvenile delinquency shows a tendency to increase. Hence people look out for ways of diverting the energies of the youth into healthy and useful channels. The agenda of the state thus includes the things that government has to do in order to maintain a vital community.
14.1b Formulation and adoption
Policy formulation involves adoption of
an approach for solving a problem. There may be choice between a
negative and a positive approach to a problem. The Congress, the
executive branch and the courts may favor dependence on impersonal
forces to correct momentary difficulties. However interest groups
may desire vigorous human interference with these forces to control
persistent difficulties. Either of these approaches involve the
formulation of policy. After a policy is formulated, a bill is presented
to the Congress, or proposed rules are drafted by regulatory agencies.
The adoption of a policy takes place only when legislation
is passed, or regulations are finalized or a decision has been passed
by the Supreme Court.
The carrying out of policy or its implementation is usually done by other institutions than those that were responsible for its formulation and adoption. Many problems are technically so complex and difficult that the legislature does not try to deal with them in detail. The legislature thus indicates the broad lines of policy, and leaves the elaboration of the policy to other governmental agencies. The complexity of the policy, coordination between the agencies putting it into effect and compliance, determine how successfully the policy is implemented. An example is seen in the case of the parity price aspect of the American farm program. The Congress sets the ideal in statutes: the farmers should receive an income from the sale of their crops that will bring them into a position of parity with respect to the prices of the non-farm goods that they must buy. The Congress then delegated to administrative officers certain discretionary powers to work out the details of this program, in the interests of the nation. Thus the details of the contemporary farm program are found mainly in administrative rulings.
14.1d Evaluation and Termination
Evaluation involves checking how well the policy is working out, which is definitely a difficult task. The cost-benefit analysis is used by people inside and outside government to determine whether government expenditure on a particular program, is justified by the benefits derived from it. Further, different or also contradictory interpretations may be obtained from the data that forms the basis of the cost -benefit analysis.
It is difficult to terminate policies, once they have been implemented. Generally policies which are absolute, failed to work, or did not find support among interest groups, have to be terminated. Thus the national speed limit of 55 miles that was enacted by the Congress in 1974, succeeded in reducing highway fatalities and gasoline consumption. However the law had to be repealed in 1987, since the resulting increased costs for the trucking industry were viewed as a federal intrusion into an area belonging to the state regulation.
14.1 The Policy Making Process
Politics and Policy Making
Policy Making in Action