Process or Policy?

The Chicken and Egg Problem of American Society

Policy is what one wants to happen. Process is how to make it happen.

Democracy is composed of many things – ideals, principles, policies, and an abiding commitment to a fair and open process of repairing and perpetuating itself as the ‘people’ vote.

Democracy as a goal only can grow out of THE process that usefully works the surrounding issues with policies that advance that goal.

The “policy or process” question can be asked when looking at a host of modern problems – immigration, climate change, human trafficking, etc. On any given issue, these problems describe a policy goal, but they are also totally reliant on a solid process of awareness and actions to gain traction towards their goal.

Why is this question even worth thinking about?

The answer is that without a clear understanding of the consequences and differences, both suffer in the absence of the other.

For example, a process without a clear focus and goal likely will spin wheels and nothing more. Similarly a clear policy, for example, to stimulate economic growth, without a clear and well directed process is unlikely to be effective.

Amazing to me, I have found that many people in and around government hold to a simplistic view that all that matters and that will hold public interest is POLICY. It is true that many (most) citizens are interested primarily in outcomes and substance – or a policy – than the process that enables that subject or goal which is dear to them.

There seems to be a view that if there is a clear policy to, say, increase exports, a process to enable that policy must also be clearly understood and will therefore automatically arise and produce that goal. Experience shows that is plain WRONG!

Indeed, the reverse is also true. A process of attempting to stimulate economic growth without the use of the relevant policy instruments (such as taxes, cheap and available money, stimulation of demand) will be incoherent, weak kneed and nothing will happen.

Journalists particularly disparage process as un-interesting because they believe their readers/viewers are only interested in concrete substantive results. What journalists need to learn and encourage is that if process is ignored and maligned the desired results are much less likely to materialize.

When Members of Congress tend to dismiss efforts to recognize and beef up process – or how things can be made to happen – things are far less likely to happen.

All this helps explain how society works – and does not work – at the root of today’s general malaise.

The confusion about and misunderstanding of the TWIN Ps – policy and process – may seem to be simplistic, but it is not.

We need to find ways to enhance and expand a better and broader understanding of this issue to move away from today’s confusing congestion.

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