AskDefine | Define policy

Dictionary Definition

policy

Noun

1 a line of argument rationalizing the course of action of a government; "they debated the policy or impolicy of the proposed legislation"
2 a plan of action adopted by an individual or social group; "it was a policy of retribution"; "a politician keeps changing his policies"
3 written contract or certificate of insurance; "you should have read the small print on your policy" [syn: insurance policy, insurance]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

  1. From policie < politia "the state" < (politeia) "state, government"
  2. From police < polizza < apodissa "receipt for money" < (apodeixis) "proof, declaration"

Pronunciation

  • ˈpɒləsi

Noun

  1. A plan or course of action, especially one of an organization or government
    • The Communist Party has a policy of returning power to the workers
  2. A course of action thought to be prudent or advantageous; hence prudence or sagacity
    • Honesty is the best policy
  3. A contract of insurance
    • Your insurance policy covers fire and theft only.
  4. An illegal lottery in late nineteenth and early twentieth century USA (no plural)
    • Some policy players frequented policy shops
  5. A statement of commitment to a broad requirement, often used in an organisation to instruct personnel as to a required outcome (note: where as "Procedures" decribe how a policy is implemented).
  6. Shrewdness or artfulness
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Modern Library Edition (1995), page 140
      These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I with greater policy concealed my struggles, and flattered you...

Translations

plan or course of action
  • Arabic:
  • Chinese: 政策 (zhèngcè)
  • Czech: politika
  • Dutch: beleid
  • Finnish: politiikka, linja
  • French: politique
  • German: Politik
  • Hungarian: politika
  • Italian: politica
  • Japanese: 政策, 施策
  • Korean: 정책 (jeongchaek)
  • Portuguese: política
  • Russian: политика
  • Spanish: política
  • Swedish: politik
course of action thought to be prudent or advantageous
  • Czech: politika
  • Finnish: linja, politiikka
  • Japanese: 方針, ポリシー
  • Russian: политика
contract of insurance
  • Arabic: (sánad ta’mīn)
  • Czech: pojistka
  • Dutch: polis
  • Finnish: vakuutuskirja
  • French: police
  • Hungarian: kötvény
  • Italian: polizza
  • Japanese: 契約内容, 規約
  • Russian: полиc
obsolete: an illegal lottery in early twentieth century USA
statement of requirement

Extensive Definition

A policy is a deliberate plan of action to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome(s). The term may apply to government, private sector organizations and groups, and individuals. Presidential executive orders, corporate privacy policies, and parliamentary rules of order are all examples of policy. Policy differs from rules or law. While law can compel or prohibit behaviors (e.g. a law requiring the payment of taxes on income) policy merely guides actions toward those that are most likely to achieve a desired outcome.
Policy or policy study may also refer to the process of making important organizational decisions, including the identification of different alternatives such as programs or spending priorities, and choosing among them on the basis of the impact they will have. Policies can be understood as political, management, financial, and administrative mechanisms arranged to reach explicit goals.

Impact of policy

Intended Effects

The goals of policy may vary widely according to the organization and the context in which they are made. Broadly, policies are typically instituted in order to avoid some negative effect that has been noticed in the organization, or to seek some positive benefit.
Corporate purchasing policies provide an example of how organizations attempt to avoid negative effects. Many large companies have policies that all purchases above a certain value must be performed through a purchasing process. By requiring this standard purchasing process through policy, the organization can limit waste and standardize the way purchasing is done.
The State of California provides an example of benefit-seeking policy. In recent years, the numbers of hybrid vehicles in California has increased dramatically, in part because of policy changes that provide USD $1,500 in tax credits as well as the use of high-occupancy vehicle lanes to hybrid owners. In this case, the organization (state and/or federal government) created a positive effect (increased ownership and use of hybrid cars) through policy (tax breaks, benefits).

Unintended Effects

Policies frequently have side effects or unintended consequences. Because the environments that policies seek to influence or manipulate are typically complex adaptive systems (e.g. governments, societies, large companies), making a policy change can have counterintuitive results. For example, a government may make a policy decision to raise taxes, in hopes of increasing overall tax revenue. Depending on the size of the tax increase, this may have the overall effect of reducing tax revenue by causing capital flight or by creating a rate so high, citizens are disincentivized to earn the money that is taxed. (See the Laffer curve)
The policy formulation process typically includes an attempt to assess as many areas of potential policy impact as possible, to lessen the chances that a given policy will have unexpected or unintended consequences. Because of the nature of some complex adaptive systems such as societies and governments, it may not be possible to assess all possible impacts of a given policy.

Policy cycle

In political science the policy cycle is a tool used for the analysing of the development of a policy item. It can also be referred to as a "stagist approach". One standardised version includes the following stages:
  1. Agenda setting (Problem identification)
  2. Policy formation
  3. Decision-making
  4. Policy implementation
  5. Policy analysis and evaluation (continue or terminate)
An eight step policy cycle is developed in detail in The Australian Policy Handbook by Peter Bridgman and Glyn Davis: (now with Catherine Althaus in its 4th edition)
  1. Issue identification
  2. Policy analysis
  3. Policy instrument development
  4. Consultation (which permeates the entire process)
  5. Coordination
  6. Decision
  7. Implementation
  8. Evaluation
The Althaus, Bridgman & Davis model is heuristic and iterative. It is intentionally normative and not meant to be diagnostic or predictive. Policy cycles are typically characterised as adopting a classical approach. Accordingly some postmodern academics challenge cyclical models as unresponsive and unrealistic, prefering systemic and more complex models.

Policy content

Policies are typically promulgated through official written documents. Such documents have standard formats that are particular to the organization issuing the policy. While such formats differ in terms of their form, policy documents usually contain certain standard components including:
  • A purpose statement, outlining why the organization is issuing the policy, and what its desired effect is.
  • A applicability and scope statement, describing who the policy affects and which actions are impacted by the policy. The applicability and scope may expressly exclude certain people, organizations, or actions from the policy requirements
  • An effective date which indicates when the policy comes into force. Retroactive policies are rare, but can be found.
  • A responsibilities section, indicating which parties and organizations are responsible for carrying out individual policy statements. These responsibilities may include identification of oversight and/or governance structures.
  • Policy statements indicating the specific regulations, requirements, or modifications to organizational behavior that the policy is creating.
Some policies may contain additional sections, including
  • Background indicating any reasons and history that led to the creation of the policy, which may be listed as motivating factors
  • Definitions, providing clear and unambiguous definitions for terms and concepts found in the policy document.

Policy typology

Policy addresses the intent of the organization, whether government, business, professional, or voluntary. Policy is intended to affect the ‘real’ world, by guiding the decisions that are made. Whether they are formally written or not, most organizations have identified policies.
Policies may be classified in many different ways. The following is a sample of several different types of policies broken down by their effect on members of the organization.

Distributive policies

Distributive policies extend goods and services to members of an organization, as well as distributing the costs of the goods/services amongst the members of the organization. Examples include government policies that impact spending for welfare, public education, highways, and public safety, or a professional organization's policy on membership training.

Regulatory policies

Regulatory policies, or mandates, limit the discretion of individuals and agencies, or otherwise compel certain types of behavior. These policies are generally thought to be best applied in situations where good behavior can be easily defined and bad behavior can be easily regulated and punished through fines or sanctions. An example of a fairly successful public regulatory policy is that of a speed limit.

Constituent policies

Constituent policies create executive power entities, or deal with laws. Constituent policies also deal with Fiscal Policy in some circumstances.

Miscellaneous policies

Policies are dynamic; they are not just static lists of goals or laws. Policy blueprints have to be implemented, often with unexpected results. Social policies are what happens ‘on the ground’ when they are implemented, as well as what happens at the decision making or legislative stage.
When the term policy is used, it may also refer to:
  • Official government policy (legislation or guidelines that govern how laws should be put into operation)
  • Broad ideas and goals in political manifestos and pamphlets
  • A company or organization’s policy on a particular topic. For example, the equal opportunity policy of a company shows that the company aims to treat all its staff equally.
There is often a gulf between stated policy (i.e. which actions the organization intends to take) and the actions the organization actually takes. This difference is sometimes caused by political compromise over policy, while in other situations it is caused by lack of policy implementation and enforcement. Implementing policy may have unexpected results, stemming from a policy whose reach extends further than the problem it was originally crafted to address. Additionally, unpredictable results may arise from selective or idiosyncratic enforcement of policy.
Types of policy include:
  • Causal (resp. non-causal)
  • Deterministic (resp. stochastic, randomized and sometimes non-deterministic)
  • Index
  • Memoryless (e.g. non-stationary)
  • Opportunistic (resp. non-opportunistic)
  • Stationary (resp. non-stationary)
These qualifiers can be combined, so for example you could have a stationary-memoryless-index policy.

Other uses of the term policy

References

  • Social Policy: an Introduction}}

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accident insurance, action, actuary, annuity, approach, arrangement, assurance, autarky, aviation insurance, bail bond, behavior, bimetallism, bingo, bond, business life insurance, card games, casualty insurance, certificate of insurance, chuck and toss, chuck farthing, chuck-a-luck, circumspection, circumspectness, conduct, consideration, contract by deed, contract of record, contract quasi, cool judgment, course, court bond, covenant of indemnity, crack-loo, crap game, crap shooting, craps, credit insurance, credit life insurance, creed, custom, debenture, debenture bond, deductible, deed, deed of trust, deed poll, design, discreetness, discretion, discrimination, economic self-sufficiency, endowment insurance, family maintenance policy, fan-tan, fidelity bond, fidelity insurance, flood insurance, formal contract, fraternal insurance, free enterprise, free trade, game plan, good judgment, government insurance, governmentalism, group policy, guiding principles, hazard, health insurance, horse racing, implied contract, indent, indenture, industrial life insurance, insurance, insurance agent, insurance broker, insurance company, insurance man, insurance policy, interinsurance, judgment, judiciousness, keno, laissez-faire, laissez-faireism, liability insurance, license bond, limited payment insurance, line, localism, lotto, major medical insurance, malpractice insurance, managed currency, management, marine insurance, method, mortgage deed, mutual company, noninterference, nonintervention, nullification, ocean marine insurance, parol contract, party line, party principle, permit bond, pinball, pitch and toss, plan of action, planned economy, platform, polity, position, position paper, practice, price supports, principles, procedure, program, promissory note, protection, protectionism, protocol, providence, prudence, prudentialism, public policy, pump-priming, recognizance, reflection, reflectiveness, regulation, robbery insurance, rouge et noir, roulette, rule, scheme, sectionalism, shell game, social security, sound judgment, soundness of judgment, special contract, specialty, specialty contract, stock company, strategy, sweepstake, sweepstakes, system, tactics, term insurance, the numbers, the numbers game, theft insurance, thoughtfulness, title deed, trente-et-quarante, underwriter, way, ways and means, weighing
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