Who Should Lead: Those Making Policy or Those Making Politics

Paper / Leadership


Who Should Lead: Those Making Policy or Those Making Politics
MabuZayed , Business Consultant, United States

Who should be at the helm? Policy makers or Politicians.


First, we should realize that politics is mainly concerned with the "exercise of power and governance" while public policy should aim at "achieving the public good."
This article will attempt to answer the following questions:
1. Do we or can we trust politicians to be good public policy makers?
2. Can public policy rely on politics to achieve its goals?
3. What are the political requirements for sound policy making?
4. By the same token, can policy makers be good politicians and succeed in political positions of power?
5. What can public policy offer politics and those in the positions of governance?

Politics VS Public Policy, Who Should Lead?
This leads us to the larger main question "who should lead, policy or politics?" The answer may not be that easy. The relationship between the two is very interconnected and interdependent. As we have illustrated above, sound policies require smart and effective utilization of political means. The public policy cycle exposes the policy under consideration to the scrutiny of politics via the various governmental institutions; and any public policy can hardly win if it is not supported by the political apparatus.

DEMOCRATIC SYSTEMS
In democratic systems, policy making is at the center of the political process. Good policies or at least policies aimed at the public good are quite often the declared agenda of aspiring or returning political candidates. Passing and implementing policies that serve a wide margin of citizens is seen many times as the criteria by which a politician is measured and evaluated. And because the voters hold the real power for deciding the fate of any politicians; many of the latter believe what will get them elected and re-elected is how well they serve the public.
Thus, policy makers should "partner" with politicians for the sake of creating sound and effective policies. Politicians, on the other hand, should partner with public policy makers who are mostly change agents driving social changes that have amassed public interest.

UNDEMOCRATIC SYSTEMS
By contrast, in highly centralized un-democratic systems the relationship is negative, antagonistic, and confrontational between the two—the politicians on one side and policy makers and policy advocates on the other. Politicians in these systems are typically a minority of self-serving manipulators that only care about themselves; they rule by and through the accumulation of power. In such systems public policy making will become a highly complicated endeavor and lobbying for or against certain policies is highly dictated by the interests of the few (such as businesses and/or political parties) and the many. Thus public policy becomes a game to serve the few, rather than the public good notion mentioned earlier. This is not public policy as it should be; it is rather politicizing public policy. The policies that get passed are those that align and serve the "elite." This is representing "the elite public policy making model" which is characterized by a minority of policy makers who craft policies as "they see fit" and far away for what the public actually need. Thus the issue becomes not as much about collaboration it is rather an issue of domination and misuse of power.

DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL SYSTEMS PROVIDE A BETTER GUARANTEE THAT POLITICS WILL BE IN SUPPORT OF POLICY
We should all know that policy making is infused with politics but should not lose its soul to politics. Politics should not hijack policy making. By the same token, Policy makers should learn to work with politics in a smart pragmatic way and they should be trained in politics. Moreover, they should not seek to become politicians for the sake of politics; they should rather play politics for the sake of policy. Developing effective advocacy strategies and engaging as many stakeholders as possible is the best approach to winning gains in the public policy domain.
In modern societies who were able to develop effective systems of governance, public policy making has become an institutionalized process that starts with the citizen and ends with him/her. The government as a tool that generates political activity strive to meet the public interest effectively and fairly. In these systems of democratic governance transparency, accountability, and integrity are not just mere "buzz" words; they are rather foundational cornerstones upon which public institutions operate and are held accountable.
Democratic societies adopt public policies that many of its political leaders have actually envisioned and/or supported. Actually, many of those leaders have been able to transfer their vision of reform and development to their people; and as a result the masses were mobilized to create public policies that translated this vision to reality. We can cite many examples here: Gandhi, Kennedy, Mao Tse-tung, and others.
In order for sound public policies to be realized, it is imperative that democratic political systems exist because they provide a better guarantee that politics will be in support of policy. Good politics is required for good public policy and that can only be achieved in a democracy.

CONCLUSION
To conclude, the better answer to the above question is not who should lead. In fact, neither politicians nor public policy makers and/or advocates should be at the helm; it is the people, the voters, the public who pay the taxes and cast their vote. That is the correct answer.

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