Public Policy

Public Values Analysis

The general idea behind this assignment is to gain insight into how value-laden, and therefore, how ethically-loaded, our public policies are. Not only are the public policies themselves value-laden, but our means of analyzing them, and of making choices about policy options are likewise value-laden. Policy analysis is often presented as an “objective” or even a “scientific” activity; it is often thought to be and described as “value-neutral.” This assignment asks you to turn those assumptions into questions, and to think carefully about them. Specifically, the assignment calls for you to:

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1. Choose a public policy about which you have some general knowledge and/or access to enough information to analyze the values involved. A good choice of policy is one that you are both interested in and have done some prior study on. For example, a public policy that you have written a paper on for another class is fair game.

2. Choose a public policy, not an organizational policy. For example, a prohibition against smoking in a building is an organizational policy, but a law or regulation that prohibits smoking in all public buildings is a public policy because it effects the citizenry in general. If you have any doubts about your chosen policy, ask for clarification!

3. Please answer or address the following points:

a. What is the “problem” that the policy is intended to resolve or address?

b. Statement of the current public policy (sometimes there isn’t one, or there may be several partial policies; it is up to you to construct a coherent statement even if the policy areas is confused or inconsistent).

c. The public values at issue in this policy area: Are there “sides” — two or more — to this issue? What values are represented on these “sides”? Are these competing values — partially or completely incommensurable? Mention all directly relevant values, but focus on those most central, and tell why those values are most central.

d. What are two or three alternative policies that could have addressed the same problem? What values are reflected in the alternatives? How are they different/similar to the values reflected in the current public policy?

e. Discuss the degree to which your own analysis has been value-laden.

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