SIPP Policy Dialogue Number 18 Spring 2008
Whyte, John D.
Marchildon, Gregory P.
Martens, Patricia J.
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Last issue, I reflected a little on the meaning of the word “dialogue.” Trying to define the word “policy” much less reflecting on its deeper meanings and nuances is much more difficult in part because almost every policy practitioner has his or her own intuitive or common sense definition of the word. Scholars have hardly helped matters. I have seen entire books on public policy in which the authors do not once attempt to define what they mean by policy. This can cause serious problems in conversations about what constitutes effective public policy. We end up arguing in circles hardly realizing that our definitions of “policy” are at least partially incompatible. The stakes are high for those charged with the responsibility to initiate and implement public policy today. They are also high for those of us in the business of judging the past, keeping in mind that we ultimately assess governments on their public policy legacies – that is, what individual administrations have bequeathed to subsequent generations.