Public policy; what is it? Who cares? Well, it’s a good topic to know and understand; especially if you’re interested in the contemporary policies of the United States (or anywhere else for that matter). I’m totally using this new racial thing in the news as well; so hopefully it’s entertaining.
Tell me, what’s the deal with this policy thing …
Public policy deals with the public. … that’s pretty obvious. And who is the public? EVERYONE. However, that definition varies depending on the context. The military is not generally “the public” unless they’re out of uniform (they have their own laws). But, as a whole, the area of public policy aims to create uniform policy for everyone to follow and abide by.
The point of public policy is to: 1) identify problems within the general public, and 2) counter that negative with a policy. This seems easy, but it can get pretty messy both legally and constitutionally speaking. Policies have to be crafted in line with rules, regulations, statutes, as well as all state and federal laws.
Exhibit A: Trans-racial people; a new kind of identification.
Very recently a woman came out as posing as a black woman. … I wasn’t ready for that one. Regardless, I suppose it may be considered a legitimate desire (unless laws have been broken? Not sure yet), and I wouldn’t be surprised if more people profess the same now that this Dolezal woman was caught. I’m willing to bet that she isn’t the ONLY trans-racial person in the US. I mean really, people do some strange things in the United States.
Interestingly, this brings up the construction of ethnicity and/or race. I’m not sure about you, but if somebody with dark complexion tells me (and believes) they’re Caucasian, I’m going to believe them regardless of whether or not they’re are telling the “truth.” Maybe only .00002% of the United States is trans-racial. Regardless, that means there is a new interest group; the trans-racial group.
This also means it’s a group that could be targeted, because minority groups tend to be targeted by the majority. But, constitutionally speaking, you can’t rule out minorities simply because they’re strange; only if they’re violent or have the intent to encroach on others’ rights. I know that in reality groups are targeted all the time; BUT, in the constitutional theory, that isn’t suppose to happen.
Some people compare it to the Jenner thing … naw. The gay, lesbian, and transgender minority groups have a far larger following that that of this new racial identity thing. … I really don’t think anyone knows how to approach this one — but soon enough the op eds will be published.
I suppose you can argue the ethics of changing identity/gender/eye color/skin pigment … or whatever. This case might bring up discussions about the limitations of what someone could do their own body … but the principle of liberty does exist, so it’s not a very fruitful conversation. But I’m pretty sure there will be arguments both condemning and legitimizing the practice. Ethics gets into some weird territory sometimes …
Ethics and morality aside, there may be a new minority trans-racial (I’m hyphenating because I don’t think the word exists yet) interest group — eventually.
Side note: Back in the day, there were lots of white-changing products marketed to black communities; like skin bleach or hair straighteners. So, oddly, there have been business campaigns that targeted race changing on a mass scale.
This fictional trans-racial interest group would still be constitutionally granted 1) life, 2) liberty, and 3) property so long as they don’t affect anyone else’s rights. If those inherent rights are violated in any way (discrimination, police targeting, targeted harassment campaigns, or other violations), then that group now has a basis for legal retaliation. If harassment and targeting happens on a big enough scale (meaning that it can’t be contained locally), then public policy formulation can try to fix the problem within the system. Other options are legislative or judicial; but public policy focuses on executive stuff most of the time.
Here is an example of what the public policy process could look like:
1) Define the problem.
Say that a minority group (the trans-racialist community) is being targeted by employers, police, and homeowners committees (they don’t want these people moving in their clean-cut neighborhood).
2) Draw up policy options.
The most-obvious solution is to make laws. … But it’s not that simple. Because making a law in the US requires going through the legislative and executive prior to becoming a law. Even before that, someone has to propose a law, meaning someone has to identify the interest group, and then propose how to fix the discrimination. Even after a law exists, it can be heard by courts to verify its constitutionality. Then it can move through the court system to go to the Supreme Court. So laws are complicated.
But money talks, and, from a policy perspective, it’s easier to handle and manipulate whatever portion of the budget is discretionary — meaning what can be spent freely. From the minority group’s perspective, they should ally with a larger group (the trans-racial and transgender interest groups could complement one another). This increases revenue, and a PR campaign can commence, not to mention formal lobbying measures. Spending state or federal money is a bit more difficult, but the group could try and appeal to grants to develop the organization. For the group, finding money and allies is always a good choice.
Executive branches can manipulate how police conduct themselves, and perhaps adjust the minimum standards by which employers and associations conduct business (justified by ensuring constitutional rights). At minimum, the executive could influence the governmental standards (targeting business practices is more difficult). By altering these practices, hopefully minority-targeting decreases. Programs could include revised ethics training, delivering specified information on how to handle these groups, or policies highlighting the penalties if the minority’s rights are violated.
Another route would be accommodations for minority groups seeking legal options. Because lawyers are crazy expensive, government bureaucracies could perhaps expand the scope of health and human services to include legal/informational programs for minority groups. This program could offer free, general counsel for the general public (but more for minority groups), and advise them on there legal options.
3) Evaluate the effectiveness of the solutions.
To be honest, I just made up all of those options, and I never formally studied public policy; but I know the point is that there is a problem identified, and solutions are proposed. If those solutions are implemented, and once data starts coming in, the programs can then be evaluated by independent researchers or audit commissions.
After any change to existing policy, the solutions become more refined, and what works stays and what doesn’t work goes back to the drawing board — so it’s very pragmatic.
Other stuff about public policy:
Proposing and evaluating public policy can emphasize any number of theoretical perspectives. This is probably because nobody can 100% “prove” why problems occur; in reality, public policy solutions are best guesses based on the evidence you have and the approach you use. The world is complex, and your individual “solution” alone is likely not to work. When people yell about politics, they generally just yell about their public policy solutions … a majority of which are not thought out very well.
But you can have a feminist approaches to public policy (one that places emphasis on gender equality, welfare, and other benefits), a Marxist one (emphasizing an increased power of the state and leveling of classes), or a libertarian one (placing responsibility on the individual or individual organization), among many others. For the most part, it is pretty much impossible to separate political views from public policy; it’s easier to divorce politics from public health (which is different that policy). Also, the approach you use depends on the problem.
But, with more data coming in, eventually quantitative (or qualitative) studies can make overarching generalizations to guide policy.
EXAMPLES: Researchers could generalize and say that a lack of education increases the probability that someone will be living at or under the poverty line (based on targeted IRS data). Or, maybe the data suggests that, generally, higher salaries are those tied to computer and information technologies (based on employer data).
What WOULD NOT be a valid generalization would be to say something like the following:
Generally, trans-racial people disobey laws more; OR; generally, most black Americans commit crimes.
— First, finding and proving the trans-racial thing would take on very precise study with accurate numbers (how many trans-racial people are there anyway?).
— The black American thing would be wrong as well. Is it being black that causes people to commit crime, or something else like poverty, increased drug sales, lack of information or something else? That could have big consequences for policy. If it’s drugs, then target the dealers; if it’s poverty, then address how poverty is connected to crime; if it’s a lack of information, then what kind of information?
So you have to be careful what you say the problem is, and what you can safely generalize.
The shaping of public policy probably depends on the political preferences of those who propose and create the policy, and what they want to emphasize. That means that the executive who decides on public policy will likely emphasize their political views. Keep in mind that none of the approaches are inherently better than the other. Rather, it depends how the problem is viewed, and what measurably fixes the problem. The key is to accurately define the problems, and not lump them all together into one, giant, mega-problem. … because that happens a lot.
In the trans-racial example above, a feminist public policy may emphasize the group’s right to enjoy any and all welfare (paid time off, worker rights, equal pay for all, etc ..), the Marxist approach (which would apply more to economic issues) would emphasize the state’s responsibility to intervene (perhaps with force), and the libertarian policy would emphasize the individual group’s responsibility to FIGURE IT OUT with existing resources. But, again, largely it depends on who is offering solutions, who is in charge of implementing those solutions, and what is chosen.
… Of course, this all assumes that there is a problem identified. So if nobody says there is a problem, then there is obviously no solution.
Public policy also isn’t limited only to civil issues. It also identifies routine problems or contradictions in existing law, highlights any problems (social, economic, or otherwise) in society, and can also piggyback on public health (write-up to come).
So, if you’re passionate about a given problem in society, perhaps you should consider going to school for public policy; you’ll learn how to identify problems (and what the current problems are), what tools are available as far as solutions go, what has been done, and they also teach you lots of ways to evaluate whether or not policy is even working (research techniques).
Hopefully using current events to highlight some of these concepts works. … But keep in mind these examples are completely made up … but plausible.
Catch ya later!