POLSC221 Study Guide

Unit 6: Comparing Ideology, Policy, and Decision Making

6a. Identify the basic belief systems of various mainstream ideologies found in contemporary democratic societies and political parties

  • What are the main tenets of conservatism, liberalism, feminism, social democracy, and environmentalism?
  • How do people who hold these political perspectives view the role and place of the individual, as compared to society as a whole?
  • Despite their differences, can you point to any commonalities among these political ideologies?
  • How does social democracy attempt to fuse or combine some of these ideas?

While basic beliefs and political ideologies can manifest themselves in different ways in politics, some key themes and concepts seem to be universal. Here, we explore some of the most common ideologies we see in political systems today.

To review, see Contemporary Mainstream Political Ideologies.


6b. Identify and explain governance and policy-making in selected countries

  • What are policies and policymaking?
  • What is political advocacy?
  • What are the different stakeholders who get involved in healthcare policymaking, such as HIV/AIDS control?
  • Why do policymakers fail to use research-based evidence when making policy decisions?
  • What happens in the five steps of the policy-making process: policy formulation, decision making, policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and agenda-setting?
  • How do the three components of the Iron Triangle (congress, bureaucracy, and interest groups) work together to form policy in the United States?
  • What are the key government bodies in the United States responsible for creating federal government policy pertaining to the federal budget, monetary and fiscal policy, education, and healthcare?
  • How does government structure create policy stability or instability?

The policy-making process is rarely straightforward and subject to influence from various parties who have a vested interest in the outcome, during every stage of development. Different forms of government give competing stakeholders different means and avenues to ensure their voices are heard during policy development, so they are not negatively impacted by decisions. In a democracy, achieving consensus can be a particularly arduous, laborious, and time-consuming undertaking.

Government policy-making involves making decisions about the best course of action, based on clear, relevant, and reliable research-based evidence. However, politicians can be reluctant to rely on evidence they suspect is biased, faulty, or irrelevant.

To review, see:


6c. Identify informal influences on governance and policymaking

  • What are the informal economy and the black market?
  • Why do politicians, business leaders, and individuals resort to the black market and corrupt practices?
  • What are some positive and negative consequences of an informal economy?
  • How does the informal economy reflect a failure of government policymaking?
  • What are some efforts to reduce corruption in the political sphere?

Policymakers do not always employ a rational cost-benefit style analysis when making decisions. Public officials may be more interested in obtaining political power or financial gain, than helping the people they were elected or hired to represent. Meanwhile, small interest groups can have an inordinate amount of power, and influence policymaking to suit their needs rather than the greater good.

Similarly, governments that fail to recognize the needs of their population open the door to an unregulated informal economy or black market. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a robust informal economy developed when farmers and food sellers from rural areas formed to provide affordable food sources to people living in urban areas. Government non-involvement allowed rural residents to generate their own income and job opportunities, via an unregulated, capitalist-style black market.

To review, see Economic SystemsThe Role of the Informal Economy in Addressing Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Global Corruption Status Report.


Unit 6 Vocabulary

  • Black market
  • Capitalism
  • Conservatism
  • Economy
  • Environmentalism
  • Externality
  • Federal budget
  • Federal Reserve Board
  • Feminism
  • Fiscal policy
  • Inflation
  • Informal economy
  • Interest group
  • Iron triangle
  • Liberalism
  • Monetary policy
  • Money
  • Planned economy
  • Policy
  • Policy evaluation
  • Policymaking
  • Political advocacy
  • Production
  • Research-based evidence
  • Social democracy
  • Social insurance
  • Socialism
  • Stakeholder