The Fundamental Problem in Public Policy
Or rather, the fundamental problem that Public Policy aims to solve.
Clickbaited you there, didn’t I?
Public policy is that branch of politics that aims to solve problems a civic society faces. It is problem-solving, on a government level. So what is the main problem that Public policy or policy analysts aim to solve?
I think it is the attempt to improve the psyche of a nation. It is finding ways to make sure the collective thought of the nation is progressing. How do you design policies that ensure that this generation and the successive generations do not litter on the roads? How do you implement policies and laws to ensure we follow traffic rules? Successive governments and policymakers have tried and failed to incentivize us to stop littering or stop spitting. But we all know how that’s fared. So how do you do it? I have no answer. But its worth thinking about ; that this is the ultimate challenge in the public policy sector. You can improve industries and sectors with good laws and governance, but can you improve people?
Of course, a separate (and thoroughly valid) debate is whether the government and policymakers need to step in here in the first place. Is it the government’s job to ensure civic society improves, or is the society’s job itself? Do we collectively decide to stop driving both sides in a one-way street, or is it upto the government to make us do that? In the previous paragraph I asked you, can public policy improve people, now I ask - should it?
I for one think the government shouldn’t involve itself. In India, too often we rely on the government to do everything. Swacch Bharat should be a citizen initiative and not a government program. Only then can we see true progress, a change in the collective psyche as I call it. As long as we are nudged and not walking of our own volition, progress will be slow, and it will not come naturally.