Writing a Policy Paper


What is a policy?  What does it mean to make a policy claim?  How do we write about policy claims?


         For the purpose of this assignment, a policy is a rule applied in a specific situation that produces a specific change in some state of human affairs.  The rule enacts, actually produces, a priority, the desired state of affairs.  This means the policy contains some claims about cause and effect relationships (‘the rule will bring about the new state of affairs’), and about norms or values (‘the new state of affairs is better than the current one or other alternatives’).  Policy analysis can focus on any of the following four parts:  (a) the rule itself, (b) the ability of implementers to apply the rule in the specific situation, (c) the ability of the rule to produce the desired state of affairs, or (d) the values embodied in the policy. For example, a rule might violate a civil right; it might bring about, in addition to the desired outcome, the deaths of innocent people; and it might pursue values that are not accepted by an overwhelming majority of citizens.  It might cost too much for the benefits achieved.  It might be the best we can do in all these respects.  It might be necessary to do more than one of the four parts, but if (c) is your main focus, for example, make sure you do a complete job on that.   There is no magic technique with any of this—humans search for reasons to believe claims, and where possible test these claims.  The usual rules about methodology apply. 

A longer version of this is here. 


Elements of a Policy Argument


The Rule

·      The rule is in our power to enact.

Applied in a Specific Situation

·      Which aspects of which individuals' lives will be changed?

·      Unintended consequences will count, as well. 

Produces the Desired Outcome

·      The rule will produce or force the desired outcome.

·      The outcome is an ethical position.  It is a collection of values deemed an improvement over the prior situation.