When Policy Fails: It is a Sad Day for Justice, Freedom, & Equality


“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Recently it seems as if we have had no great days for justice, freedom, and equality. It is a sad day for policy makers when the reduction in teen pregnancy seems to be linked to a reality TV show and not to a change in policy. It is also a sad day when federal policy to provide military weapons to civilian police appears to be resulting in the increased use of force that is disproportionately levied against young black men. We have a few options: 1) let reality TV take over policy, or 2) change our policy model.

There is a plethora of policy frameworks and models that I could adopt to analyze a policy. Hindshaw and Grady (2011) identified three that work especially well for health care policy:

  1. Data-Driven Policymaking (Weinick & Shin, 2003)
  2. Evidence-Informed Health Policy (Green & Bennett, 2007)
  3. The Policy Cycle: Moving From Issue to Policy (Shamian et al., 2002)

Each has distinct advantages and may serve me well, but like many policy analyses I have reviewed they are lacking two fundamental elements: compassion and human dignity. The Policy Cycle did include values and beliefs, but as we all know many of our values are completely devoid of compassion when carefully examined. Compassion and reason should coexist in our policy making. If we are ever going to get beyond the negative influences of policy that is bought and paid for by the highest bidder, forced on the weak by the biggest policy bully, conceived by the person who puts personal success in front of a well ordered society and profits before people, then a broader concept of what a constitutes a good policy must be considered. We must add compassion and ensure human dignity while minimizing negative influences. Maybe then we won’t have to depend on reality TV to solve teen pregnancy or turn our police officers into occupying forces to “protect and serve”.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.56.51 PM

Adapted from: Policy Cycle: Moving from Issue to Policy (Shamian, Skelton-Green, Villeneuve, 2002)

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