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Essay on Theories of Public Policy

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Public policy making is essential in making sure that the government is guided in order to reach rational decisions. It is there to give clarity to the internal and external stakeholders on how an organization operates (in this context the government), how resources will be allocated, and how everything will operate in a country. Public policy can also be defined as “a relatively stable, purposive course of action followed by an actor or set of actors in dealing with a problem or a matter of concern” (Anderson, 1997). Many theories have been discovered by political scientists to analyze policy-making. The three public policy theories that this essay will be exploring are elite theory, group theory and political systems theory. The main claims and propositions of each of these three theories will be discussed and practical examples of these theories will be exhibited.

Elite Theory

Elite theory is a branch of political science which states that decision making power rests with the elite group of people, who hold most of the decision-making power in society. The exact number of people that constitute this elite group depends on person’s definition. It could be defined in terms of wealth, education or simply age. According to this theory, there are two types of elites. The rulers which are the only ones responsible for decisions regarding military and economic policy. This model portrays that opposing to the belief that pluralism has in-constructed mechanism for ensuring equity in the share of influence in society, in reality public policy is the replicate picture of the ruling elite’s interest. The elite group is split into governing and non-governing ones. These few that have unique qualities such as skills, wealth, and intelligence have access to the best leaders, whilst majority of the population is destined to be dominated. Approached from views of elite principle, public policy may be seemed as reflecting the values and alternatives of a governing elite. The first proposition is that the main actors of this process are ‘leaders’ as in politicians and other powerful people. The second proposition arguments that the process of policy making can be well explained by neo-classical economics, it also argues that the elite theory is really descriptive and not normative. This theory may be influenced by people with money and power, but people’s (the masses) opinions matter too and have an influence in the final decision. Their opinion matters, but the ‘elites” can influence the people, more than the people can influence the elites. The crucial argument of elite concept is that public policy is not determined by the needs and actions of the humans or the masses however alternatively with the aid of ruling elite whose choices are carried into impact via political officers and agencies. In other words, in societies, some individuals have power and others do not, and those who do have access to reach higher officials who can take their issues into account, hence why it is prone for people in higher classes to have their issues solved rather than people in the lower class as they do not have the access, power or resources to be noticed. So stated, elite concept is a provocative principle of policy formation due to the fact policy right here, is the product of elites, reflecting their values and serving their ends, one in all which may be a desire to offer in a few manners for the welfare of the hundreds. One different hindrance of this version is that it assumes an exceedingly structured and stratified society. In structurally diffused societies, elite formation and consequently, elite values and elite identification is fantastically undeveloped.

An example for elite theory would be that when in a community, or an estate, there are prominent people with more influence and society because of their titles (such as being a politician, a doctor or a lawyer), amongst people who are not as influential as they are. In such communities, those people are usually elected as representatives of their communities because of their social skills, connections and value to the community. They are the ones who raise concerns of their community because of their accessibility to people who have the power to address and change their issues. This is real life proof that connections can get people far in life, as they have access to people who can make things happen.

Group Theory

According to the institution idea of politics, public policy is the product of the organization battle. What may be referred to as public policy is the equilibrium reached on this group conflict at any given second, and it represents a balance which the contending factions or groups continuously strive to win in their favor. In other words, the imperative practice of this version is that interplay among corporations is an important aspect in politics. The main claims and propositions of group theory n public policy making are that everyone has their own perspective, that a group is never homogeneous but rather made up of a range of different perspectives, and lastly that the way to decide on policy is to find out which perspective will have the greatest effect on society and then use this to make policy. The capacity of the organization this is favored at one factor to preserve its benefit relies upon on its power to counteract the powers of different businesses that could make efforts to tilt selections to their favor. Since the power to dominate policy decision is depending on group team spirit and power, the dynamics of the policy procedure is predicted to be extra colorful and fierce in plural societies than in homogenous ones. In such societies the ability of a set to tilt the policy to its favor relies upon on a range of things, prominent among that are wealth, organizational ability, leadership and bargaining ability. But as wealth is important, organizational skills are just as important. Without the organizational skills, nothing can be changed or addressed because it won’t be taken into consideration. Indeed, wealth is essential when it comes to the political world, because with wealth come resources, and with resources convenience follows. Bargaining skills are also important as some conclusions cannot be reached, but with bargaining skills an ultimatum can be given. This is why it is important in this theory to have people who at least have one of these advantages.

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A practical example for group theory is when people who live in rural areas, their electricity can be cut off for days and the municipality will take their time, yet when the same incident occurs to people who live in wealthier suburban areas, it would be fixed as quickly as possible. This happens because people who live in suburban areas are wealthy, they have power and connections, and they also have organizational skills as they are more educated than the people who are in the lower social class. This shows that without wealth and all the factors mentioned above, problems take longer to be solved and even noticed because of the lack of wealth and organizational skills.

Political Systems Theory

A political machine may be that system of interactions in any society through which authoritative allocations are made and applied within the form of guidelines and choices. Public coverage can also be seen as a political device’s reaction to needs arising from its environment. This environment includes all phenomena-the social system, the economic system, the biological setting – that are external to the limits of the political device. Inputs into the political machine from the environment encompass needs and helps. Demands are typically the claims for motion that individuals and agencies make to satisfy their interest and values. Support is rendered while groups and people abide by election results, pay taxes, obey legal guidelines, and otherwise accept choices and actions taken through the political gadget in response to demands. The amount of guide for a political machine indicates the volume to which it’s far seemed as valid, or as authoritative and binding on its citizens.

An example would be increasing tax. Some people benefit and some people don’t, but it affects everyone at the end whether it is positively or negatively. Another example would be when the government when the Pandemic first approached South Africa and lockdown began, all small business were instructed to not operate until further notice, and big organizations were allowed to operate. This affected the small business owners and their families as they are not benefitting, and the big organization owners benefitted as they had less competition and people were buying in bulk to avoid constant human contact.


After analyzing these theories and considering the other policymaking theories, it would be biased to say that one theory is better than another, no theory can be said to be better than the other. All of these theories are sufficient when used for the right situation, meaning that people should use the best theory for the situation that they are in (the most beneficial and easily accessible to them at that specific time). It is important to have the skills that are needed for each theory, because without those skills, these theories won’t be sufficient.

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Essay on Theories of Public Policy. (2023, January 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from
“Essay on Theories of Public Policy.” Edubirdie, 31 Jan. 2023,
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