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The Practice of American Public Policymaking Essay

Pages:5 (1629 words)



Topic:Policy Implementation

Document Type:Essay


The Principles of Machiavelli in American Policy

The first chapter in The Practice of American Public Policymaking lays out what the book examines in the succeeding chapters. First, Briggs and Helms (2015) define policymaking as “the activities, actors, institutions, practices, and technologies that combine to ‘deliver the goods’ to the American people” (p. 3). Public policy is defined as “the art and science of producing results” (p. 3). Thus, the book is primarily about American public policymaking and the focus is on conception and practice, which means that both the development and the implementation of policy are covered in the following chapters. Implementation is especially important because it refers to the process of monitoring and evaluating policy. Policy and management should be part and parcel, according to the authors as “there is no policy without implementation” and there is no awareness of the success of a policy without evaluation (Briggs & Helms, 2015, p. 3). The book does not focus on analysis but rather on practice primarily—on the what rather than the why.

Technology—from TV to budgets—is discussed in order to show that public policymaking is not just about how media is used but also about how budgets are managed and how projects proceed. Briggs and Helms (2015) point out that some of the most controversial public policies—like those on privacy or abortion—are byproducts of technological breakthroughs. Institutional and historical factors are also considered, as everything in the realm of public policymaking is viewed as a work in progress. Briggs and Helms (2015) explain that actors today are much different from the actors of a hundred years ago. Because the authors use the case study method for explaining public policymaking in America, they provide the history and background on their examples to facilitate contextualization. The authors also employ the technique of policy mapping to show how the practice and art of public policymaking is conducted.

In the second chapter, the authors examine how public policymaking is conducted in the 21st century. The second chapter is essentially an overview of public policymaking research and history, and the chapter starts with a discussion of policy from the standpoint of Machiavelli, who stated that policy was about using knowledge to inform statecraft and further the ends of the state. This is an important point because it should be noted that the idea is to further the ends of the state—not the people. The state is conceived as an entity unto itself, while in America there idea behind the government is that it is supposed to be for and by the people (Mizaur, 1993). Yet here in the outset of the book on policy, the authors openly state that American public policymaking has taken its cues from the master of statecraft and of putting the interests of the state—i.e., of the prince—first and foremost. In other words, the people are there to serve the prince rather than the prince being there to serve the state. If the policy approach of Machiavelli is the basis of policymaking in the US, then the American public has been fed a canard with the idea of democracy.…

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…policy. Then the authors go on to state that Machiavellian politics has never taken root in America.

Yet in the very beginning, the authors stated that Machiavellian’s principles are the root of policymaking today and they also stated that American policymaking is really not much different from policymaking in other countries. Thus it cannot be said to be a national failing of character. What the authors do show is that Americans use technology to create their sense of policy. Policy is preferred over politics in America, according to the authors, but one may well wonder at this point whether the authors actually live in America because that is almost certainly not the case—especially since 2016. If anything, Americans today would rather fight over politics than talk about policy. Policy is almost a laughable word at this point because American politicians have shown themselves to be the hacks that they are. And if they are hacks then who is writing the policy? Americans may have a preference for policy, according to the authors but there is no way they are having that preference fulfilled.

Then there are the arguments such as this one—that Roosevelt’s New Deal policy became a source of confidence for Americans and their belief in the government to take care of them? Is this a revisionist history book? Most Americans were thoroughly discouraged by the New Deal and found it to be too little too late. The text goes on to show that technology changed the way Americans think about policy but at this point the authors seem…

Sample Source(s) Used


Briggs, S., & Helms, L. B. (2015). The practice of American public policymaking. New York: Routlege Taylor & Francis Group.

DeLeon, P., & DeLeon, L. (2002). What ever happened to policy implementation? An alternative approach. Journal of public administration research and theory, 12(4), 467-492.

Mizaur, D. G. (1993). Quality government is government of the people, by the people, for the people. Public Productivity & Management Review, 371-377.

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