|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
Domestic policy is an area of public policy which concerns laws, government programs, and administrative decisions which are directly related to all issues and activity within a nation's borders. It differs from foreign policy, which refers to the ways a government advances its interests in world politics. Domestic policy covers a wide range of areas, including business, education, energy, health care, law enforcement, money and taxes, natural resources, social welfare, and personal rights and freedoms.
Domestic policy decisions usually reflect a nation's history and experience, its social and economic conditions, the needs and priorities of its people, and the nature of its government. Domestic policy is a frequent source of disagreement among people of different backgrounds and philosophies. People who hold conservative beliefs, for instance, will likely stress order, security, and traditional values in domestic policy. People who hold more liberal beliefs, on the other hand, will likely emphasize equality and government efforts to help the needy.
Many broad domestic policy issues are similar for nearly all countries of the world. For example, all governments are expected to provide education, law and order, and other basic services for their citizens. However, the specific goals and objectives of domestic policy vary depending on each nation's needs and capabilities. Most wealthy democracies, for instance, spend substantial sums of money on domestic programs. Many poorer countries have difficulty devoting resources to such essential areas as education and health care.
Many domestic policy debates concern the appropriate level of government involvement in economic and social affairs. Traditionally, conservatives believe that the government should not play a major role in regulating business and managing the economy. Most conservatives also believe that government action cannot solve the problems of poverty and economic inequality. Most liberals, however, support government programs that seek to provide economic security, ease human suffering, and reduce inequality. Many liberals also believe that the government should regulate businesses to ensure safe and fair working conditions and to limit environmental pollution.
Certain domestic policy issues are especially controversial among people of different cultures, religions, and personal beliefs. Examples of such issues include abortion rights, the rights of homosexuals, the role of religion in public life, and the place of cultural diversity in education and employment.
Shaping and implementing
A nation's form of government largely determines how its domestic policy is formed and implemented. Under authoritarian governments, a ruling group may pursue its domestic policy goals without the input or consent of the people being governed. But in democratic societies, the will of the people has a much greater influence.
In a democracy, the formal design of domestic policy is chiefly the responsibility of elected leaders, lawmaking bodies, and specialized government agencies. But a number of other factors also play a role in the process. Voters, for instance, determine which individuals and political parties have the power to determine policy. The mass media distribute, and opine, information about domestic issues and influence the beliefs and opinions of the people. Lobbyists, activist groups, and other organizations also work to influence policy through a variety of methods. Such methods may include monetary donations, promises of support, advertising campaigns, or demonstrations and protests.
The effectiveness of domestic policy depends on the government bureaucracy (system of agencies) that puts laws and programs into action. In some cases, bureaucracies act slowly or inefficiently, or fail to apply policies as they were originally intended. Domestic policy may also face challenges in the courts. In many countries, courts have the power of judicial review, which allows them to strike down any legislative or executive action that they find in violation of the nation's constitution.