What Is Public Policy?

Summary

Public policy is the broad strategy government uses to do its job, the relatively stable set of purposive governmental behaviors that address matters of concern to some part of society. Most policy outcomes are the result of considerable debate, compromise, and refinement that happen over years and are finalized only after input from multiple institutions within government. Health care reform, for instance, was developed after years of analysis, reflection on existing policy, and even trial implementation at the state level.

People evaluate public policies based on their outcomes, that is, who benefits and who loses. Even the best-intended policies can have unintended consequences and may even ultimately harm someone, if only those who must pay for the policy through higher taxes.