The conventional understanding of the policy process is that, within a liberal democratic state, the citizenry vote for politicians who most represent and articulate their interests, and in executive and legislative institutions, politicians formulate policies on behalf of the citizenry. These policies are then implemented by a public bureaucracy that is impartial, neutral and objective, and by extension represents the interests of the citizenry by implementing policies as mandated by political masters. A quote from the movie, Crimson Tide (1995) by the protagonist, Captain Ramsey: ‘We’re here to preserve democracy, not to practise it . . .’ illustrates that even in popular culture there is a simplistic notion of the policy process – politicians
formulate policy and civil and public servants merely implement policies. This linear conception of the policy process, within a democratic context of the will of the people being represented in policies, enacted by a political class and implemented through a public bureaucracy is somewhat of a simplistic notion; reality is far more complex. Often the policy process is discussed in terms of policy formulation, implementation and evaluation forming a cyclical pattern with a feedback loop from evaluation to formulation. The reality is that the public policy process rarely follows this orderly pattern.