Back to top

Why Public Policy?

Public Policy is an interdisciplinary program connecting the theoretical and analytical tools of economics, political science, philosophy, psychology, and law with their real-world policy applications. The Public Policy Program is committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive, and respectful community.

Students are often inquisitive about the differences between Public Policy and other related subjects, such as political science, economics, or certain fields of philosophy. Public policy analysis requires students to understand tools and principles taught in political science as well as economics and to integrate that learning in order to pursue goals whose values are based in moral and political philosophy. In contrast, political science deals chiefly with the processes of political decision making, while economics focuses principally on efficient resource allocation. Philosophy seeks to provide a rational relationship between fundamental values and actions.

Of course, public policy analysis requires an even broader understanding than that provided by the disciplines of economics, philosophy, and political science. For example, effective analysis depends heavily on the ability to identify, collect and test appropriate data in order to understand the effects of policies and programs. That ability is derived from the study of mathematics, statistics, and econometrics. Effective policy analysis is very difficult indeed if the analyst is ignorant of the humanities, of the experiences and perspectives of cultures distant in space or time, or of the scientific method. And policy analysis is fruitless if the analyst is unable to communicate the results clearly and effectively to decision makers and lay audiences. Communication skills are an essential element of effective policy analysis.

Educational Objectives:

  • Understanding the advantages of and barriers to effective human social and political cooperation (theory of collective action, game theory, organizational behavior, social psychology, politics);
  • Acquiring a framework for formulating and evaluating appropriate normative objectives, defined in terms of human well-being, including justice or fairness (ethics, moral and political philosophy, economic analysis of law);
  • Mastering analytical tools useful for evaluating public policies and programs in terms of their absolute and comparative efficacy in achieving given social objectives (microeconomics, welfare economics, public finance, econometric analysis, benefit-cost-risk analysis); and
  • Bringing these principles and tools into practical application for decision making in the real world, from the perspectives of political leaders as well as citizens (applications of evidence-based practices in applied fields such as health or environmental policy; practical, internships).