Approaches employed in the study of policy making
Public policy is any framework of principles that ensure the well-being of the members of the general public (Woll, 12). Public policy may vary depending on the government in power. For instance, the public policy of a dictatorship form of government cannot be similar to the public strategy of a democratic government. This is simply because the sole body with the authority to enact and implement the policy is the government in power. Policy analysis on the other hand, is the process of trying to establish the probability that a certain chosen policy is bound to succeed or otherwise. There are various approaches applied in determining whether or not a certain public policy will achieve desired objectives of public interest. These policies do so through the use of various principles at different levels (Sarkesian, Allen, & Cimbala, 167). They analyze the process of making policies through focusing on the formulation process and the number of stakeholders involved as well as the power and influence of such stakeholders. The relationship between the particular policy and the goal is of considerable importance here. The first approach focuses on policy making at the elite level. The stakeholders involved at this level are the presidential advisory council, the society’s eminent persons, and the military. The second approach caters for the inefficiencies of the first approach. The third approach focuses on the role of the country’s populace in policy making. This paper seeks to explain the three as well as the weaknesses and strengths of such policies with regard to the Obama Healthcare.
The Obama healthcare policy
Because these approaches are discussed in this paper in light of the Obama healthcare, it is important to first understand what the policy entails and what the public perception is. There have been quite a number of amendments to the laws governing healthcare in the United States of America over the years with each administration holding different ideas over the same issue. The particular issue in our context is the effects of the Obama healthcare policy. The many amendments can be analyzed and discussed further but for our purpose, the 2010 policy amendment to healthcare laws is the most important. This policy, which has to be commonly referred to as the Obama-Biden plan has come with so much controversy with many referring to it as the rich man policy.
Typically, when it comes to healthcare policies, the American populace is faced with two options. The administration controlled health policy characterized by punitive taxes or a state where the insurance houses carry out their activities without limitations (Woll, 46). The Obama administration views these two options as being wrong. As such the government takes a middle ground standpoint that empowers the coverage by the employers. It also makes the companies offering insurance services accountable for the pitfalls in the health sector. The Obama-Biden policy advocates for a situation where the patient can choose the doctor he or she prefers. The policy as well advocates for zero intrusion by the government in all matters of individual health. Economists argue that this is the most affordable health policy yet. Critics on the other hand have termed the policy as being in favor of the rich and domineering to the poor.
The first approach to policy making in the United States of America is the approach that involves the top politicians, the key business cartels and individuals as well as the top military personnel (Hill et al, 23). This approach has been criticized as giving prominence to the elite who do not understand what the poor and the average citizens at the grassroots go through when the public policy is not fairly balanced. The critics argue that this approach is not in line with the principles of public policy. Public policy is all about the achievement of decisions that are in the wider interest of the nation. The individuals at this level in society usually try to influence public policy so as to achieve some individual goals or some objectives that are in favor of their business ventures or political positions. The degree to which politics is employed in this approach makes it a subjective approach.
The second approach is one that comes in as a way of remedying the inefficiencies of the first approach (Hill et al, 27). As stated earlier, the first approach has a major setback. It is inefficient in the sense that it does not cater for the wide public interest. It is dictated by the views of a few people and high profile groups. The second approach involves such stakeholders as the human right groups and such professional bodies as the law society. These stakeholders challenge the status quo as a way of representing the citizen at the ground. They come in as regulatory bodies that ensure that the balance between the elite and the common citizen. This approach ensures the policy being made does not favor particular groups or classes.
The third approach is the public approach focuses on the role of the members of the general public in the process of making policy. It entails the involvement of the people through various procedures and administrative controls and structures (Sarkesian, 78). The people participate in policy making through such procedures as public voting and the execution of opinion polls. The public is able, through such procedures, to determine the direction of the public opinion. The most common examples where this approach is applicable is the process of a country holding a referendum. The people vote for or against the proposed constitution hence determining the law of the land. This approach will be discussed in detail.
The people’s approach
The most unique feature about this approach is that it involves the most important stakeholder to the public policy-the people. The approach has been described as the most efficient method of realizing the wishes and desires of the people (Woll, 45). Unlike the first approach that involves a few people and non-representative groups, this approach represents the broad interest of the people.
The strengths of this approach
The first and most important strength of this approach is that it upholds democracy in determining the direction of the country and the welfare of the common citizen. Much as the legislature is a body of voted representatives, the contribution of the representative might not be the ultimate wish of the people (Woll, 56). The voted legislature may decide to go by a particular point of view because of the party he is affiliated to. Considering also those legislators are members of the elite, it is worth concluding that the legislature may be of an opinion that will protect the interests of the rich and oppressive to the poor.
The second strength of this approach is that it is the most objective method of putting forward the wishes and desires of the majority. Again, referring to democracy, the majority should have their way as the minorities have their say. It is only through such processes as elections and public opinion that the common person at the grassroots can express his or her views. The third strength or merit of this approach is that the policy making process is not manipulated by such waves as politics.
It is also worth mentioning that this approach encourages responsible behavior among citizens. It nurtures a sense of patriotism in the citizens since they feel more affiliated to the country since by participating in the policy making process they determine various variables that affect their lives and welfare. This approach eliminates the negative effects on the policy making process that come as a result of personal inefficiencies of the legislators.
The weaknesses of the approach
The major weaknesses of this approach are based on the fact that the people are many and they view things differently. The fact that the people’s opinion is likely to be affected by the opinions of politicians makes this approach subjective (Woll, 67). People affiliated to a particular party may vote according to the views of the party politicians. The second weakness or shortcoming of this approach is that conducting elections is quite expensive. Conducting elections for example is a very involving process. It requires a lot of economic resources as well as time and personnel. Managing and trying to mitigate election malpractices is not easy a task.
Before the people can participate in policy making, they are required to undergo some form of civic education. Carrying out civic education processes is a time consuming process. This implies that this approach is not appropriate in making speedy decisions. It is also worth noting that this process is not the most appropriate approach since not all people in a country’s population participate in the civic processes. Research shows that almost 65% of the youth population in the United States of America does not take part in electoral processes. This means that, representative as this approach may appear; it’s not fully reflective of the people’s wishes (Hill et al, 34).
In conclusion, it is rather apparent that the three approaches all have strengths and weaknesses that are unique. Even so, the first and second approaches are quite inefficient as far as public opinion is concerned. They do not represent the wider interest of the people. They are narrow in scope. The most effective and efficient approach therefore is the third approach. It may have inefficiencies and shortcomings but its strengths outweigh the pitfalls. It is costly and time consuming but that should not be seen as a major setback since democracy comes at a cost.
Hill et al. Public policy analysis. Bristol. The policy press. 2011. Print
Sarkesian, S., Allen, W & Cimbala, S. National Policy, Policymakers, Processes & Politics (4th
Edition).London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008
Woll, P. Public policy. London. University of America press, Inc. 1974. Print