Public Policy and Law School
Policy is nothing but the guiding principle behind the conduct or action. If there is no rule, there is no policy. “A policy is not something fixed, but something fluid, determined by wisdom and reason.”
Policy is a deliberately structured system of rules to guide social actions and achieve desirable results. A policy is an enacted statement of purpose and is generally applied as a process or constitution. Usually, policies are adopted by a governing body over an extended period of time in an organized political party. Policy-making is usually a very lengthy process, taking weeks, months or even years. Policy-making involves the application of theory and the application of historical fact to selected aspects of public policy.
The Theory of Public Policy, the most important contribution of John Locke, has been modified and improved by the Social scientists since. John Locke’s basic assumption concerning public opinion was that individuals always act on the basis of their own best understanding of their self-interest. This was called the “over-the-self” approach to private interest. Locke believed that a ruler’s power rested on the will of the majority of citizens, and that the ruler must protect the interests of the governed. He also held that the government of a country could be just and durable only if there existed a general awareness of the rules of the society.
During the last fifty years, a variety of theories of public policy have been developed, each grounded on different assumptions about the source of public opinion and its effects on policymaking. Some of these assumptions are the principle of subsidizing, local control, freedom of choice, direct government control, and representative government. Still others include the assumption of deliberative democracy, the priority of bottom-up choices, and the importance of popular opinion.
There is considerable debate among social scientists as to which of these assumptions about the nature of public policy are most correct. Some believe that direct control and local decision making are more important than subsidies and liberalization. They argue that citizens do not readily absorb large sums of money into their local municipalities, especially when those sums involve large amounts of taxation. On the other hand, they believe that political parties may find common ground in adopting certain policies, because many citizens share some of the same goals and some policies are widely supported by the governed parties. There is also much controversy as to how political parties affect policy, especially with regard to special interest groups, campaign contributions, and judicial review.
In law school, students learn about and study many different public policy issues, including judicial review, discrimination, environmental regulation, Medicare and Medicaid, labor laws, and taxation. Students may find themselves researching specific industries or identifying industries where public policy may play an important role. After completing a law school degree, students can pursue careers in academia, government, business, or nonprofit organizations. Alternatively, some choose to become teachers or researchers. In either case, they will be exposed to a diverse body of laws and procedures and will work in a complex and dynamic environment where rules and procedures can vary greatly from one locale to another.