Implementation of Public Policy: Issues of Theory and Practice
There is what we want then there is what we get. Implementing public policy is frequently plagued with the realization that expectations often fall short when theory is translated into real world practices. This is a result of those developing and implementing public policy both having to compromise and not fully recognizing potential conflicts that exist in the practical application of the theory and undermine the success of a policy. Unfortunately, theory is developed in semi-idealistic conditions, thus forcing policymakers to often overlook factors that will undermine a policy in the real world.
The development of public policy is the beginning of problems for those tasked with applying legislative theory. A policymaker will bring an issue to light with his or her idea for a solution then a group of policymakers should come together to improve that draft reform. Unfortunately, this process can lead to a need for appeasement. At the same time, policymakers, who fundamentally oppose the basis of the policy change, often work to undercut the potency and influence of the resulting policy. In all, this can result in a less than ideal policy.
Meanwhile, public policy is particularly sensitive to post reform activities of policymakers. If a policymaker is inclined to undermine a recently enacted policy, he or she can find ways to annul the new legislative work or create a new policy that impacts how the original is enacted. This legislative option exists to help minimize unintended consequences, but abuse allows public officials to revise their predecessors' work despite pubic sentiment in factor of the original policy. Unfortunately, our society is far too subject to policymakers destroying progress based on their personal philosophy versus out of public interests.
Once public policy is implemented, it must be reconciled with already existing policy. If a conflict arises, supremacy requires the original policy, unless specifically addressed in the new policy, remain intact, thus the new policy must be weakened. In addition, unforeseen weaknesses or misapplications of the policy may result in unintended consequences that can be extremely damaging to a community. In fact, these issues can arise years after the new policy has been successful integrated into a community.
Finally, even the most ideal, most practical policy can fall short of expectations. If the policy is dependent on a certain level of projected funding or participation, nothing can make that policy successful when predications fall short. Accordingly, it is also important to remember a policy can be absolutely perfect, yet remain under supported. Unless the public adequately supports a policy it cannot be successful. Whether a policy is needed or wanted, it will always fall short of expectations unless the community is behind it and makes it successful.