Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Concept of "Public Policy": An Insidious Threat to Liberty

At all levels of government, government action and court judgments are often executed such that they fit a vague set of concepts known by various terms, such as"Public Policy." In a recent work, "An Introduction to the Policy Process", Thomas Birkland stated there is a lack of consensus on the definition of public policy. This lack of consensus is remarkable for a concept invoked so extensively at all levels of government. In a nearly circular definition, Wikipedia defines public policy as: "A term used to describe the laws, decisions, regulations, etc, of a government body...A government's public policy is the set of policies it that chooses...Since governments claim authority and responsibility over a large group of individuals, they see fit to establish plans and methods of action that will govern that society." In a country supposedly governed by a constitution that limits goverment power, how did such a sweeping mandate for government power become a vague, poorly defined shadow constitution? According to some, public policy is a twentieth century creation, some dating to the American political scientist Charles Merriam who attempted to connect the practice of politics to the actual actions of governments. Note that governments at all levels gradually adopted this "science" to guide the interpretation of laws and executive decisions by government. These policies can be used to negate or invalidate private contracts and other personal or private decision making which is not congruent with the judge's or official's own interpretation of the vague precepts of "public policy". The term "public policy" needs to be classified with other terms, such as "public good" or "will of the people" as highly suspect concepts used by governments to destroy liberty.

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