As public policy refers to any action taken by the government that impacts its citizens, the history of public policy is intertwined with the history of government. Examples of public policy practice range from the creation of laws and regulations around the death penalty and firearms, to the assessment of policies governing civil rights and health care. Modern-day government finds its roots in the ancient city-states of areas now known as China, India, Mexico, Egypt, the Middle East and Mesopotamia. It evolved as a response to war: invading barbarians attempting to conquer settled communities, or warring factions attempting to overtake the others’ land and resources.
Public policy analysis combines policy analysis with program evaluation. It involves determining which of various policies is most likely to meet a given goal. The term “public policy analysis” actually refers to two distinct fields: analysis for public policy, which refers to the process of research and other information gathering in order to create policy, and analysis of public policy, which explains why certain policies exist.
There are three primary approaches to public policy analysis: analycentric, policy process, and meta-centric. The analycentric process focuses on individual problems and attempts to create the most efficient allocation of resources on a micro level. The policy process focuses on political processes and attempts to solve problems by changing the relative power of certain groups – in other words, shifting the type of public participation that occurs during political processes. The meta-policy approach operates at a macro level and uses a systems approach. It seeks to find solutions to problems by addressing structural factors such as political, structural, and socio-economic factors.
The process of implementation seeks to solve public policy problems. Policies are implemented, or put into effect, by local, state, and federal government. It refers to the stage of policy making between the creation of a policy and the policy’s impact on those for whom it is intended (and sometimes, for those whom it’s unintended).
Implementation of public policy involves three steps: interpretation, organization, and application. Once a policy is developed, it is assigned to a particular individual, group, or agency. The goals are translated into rules and guidelines, and resources and personnel are then coordinated to achieve those goals.
There are three major theoretical models to US public policy interpretation: the top-down approach, the bottom-up approach, and principal-agent theory. In the top-down approach, policies are set at a higher level, then communicated to subordinates who handle the implementation process. The bottom-up approach recognizes input from individuals and governmental entities at various levels, not just the ‘higher-ups’. Principal-agent theory emphasizes agreements between those who develop and those who implement policy.
Popular US public policy issues range from education public policy to immigration public policy to health care, education and the environment, and the economy.