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Policy vs. Politics: The Unknown Battle in Government

What People Should Know About Their Government by: Jonathan Hessling, IUF

Politics versus policy is a battle that rages continually and, as Americans are witnessing with their upcoming election, is something that is influencing their lives everyday. What most people do not understand is the complexity behind the two concepts of politics and policy. People see both words and associate a similar meaning making them almost completely interchangeable. But are these words as interchangeable as people believe them to be or is there a striking difference between them that is typically overlooked? Using the American election again as an example, are the politicians campaigning on popular politics or on substantive policy? Is there a difference between these two ideas? Should there be a difference between them or should they be one in the same? These are all questions that each citizen, no matter what country or governmental regime they live under, should ask themselves. The players in this battle affect citizens daily lives by the choices they make. Thus, if there is a difference between politics and policy, then it should affect how a citizen perceives government and how they vote. It is the responsibility of each citizen to understand the differences between government, policy, and politics, how they interact with their daily lives, and how they can influence the outcome of the policies and politics in their given governmental regime.  


What people need and should understand is that the world of government and politics is an intense game of who can sell a product better and more efficiently. This product is not created by the politician but by the policy analyst or political scientist who has spent a large amount of time and effort researching and writing on one given issue. So as an example, say the Executive's advisors are telling him/her that there should be tax cuts across the board because it could stimulate the economy and stifle a possible recession. What his advisors are telling him is that the policy that political scientists and policy analysts have researched and written about is essential to the nation. This policy is an idea that they think should be made into legislative law so that the policy has the power to affect change. Now when the Executive addresses the people of a given nation, he never makes mention of this policy idea because he knows that the there is no way that he could get it through the politicians in office in the legislative body. Thus the policy and political world meet eye to eye and come into combat. What the people see is that politics once again either aided or hindered their day to day life. Thus they think that the policy and political world are one in the same because they only see the legislative body unwilling to give them the tax cuts and the Executive unable to persuade the legislative body to do what he would like. The "man behind the curtain" is once again thwarted by politics not because of policy. This dance happens on a daily basis on a myriad of issues from the mundane to the sensational. People need to understand that the best way to get the policy they need and/or want is to demand their legislative body work to create or allow the passage of the policy when it reaches their desks.  


In conclusion, the policy world could benefit from the public at large having a better understanding of what their function is in government and how a politician can aid or hinder their job. Once people understand the differences in the roles that each of the actors plays in their lives they can become better equipped to affect change in the government, policy, and the direction in which it is tending. This makes the populous fetter because they have a substantive stake or investment in their government and what actions their government is undertaking. People should always remember that they are the government and that the government would no exist without the people giving it the power to exist. This is the key to a working, effective, and sustaining democracy in the world.  


The full article can be found at the IUF-Global Blog at:  




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Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

"What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals."

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