Ideologies and How They Impact Policy Making

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Essay Question: What are ideologies and how do they impact upon policy making?

Ideologies refer to a set of ideas and values that provides a base for organised political action. They justify and influence the different theories of society and human nature. Ideologies have a big impact on policy making, as the government of the day will base their policies around these political ideologies. The two major political parties in New Zealand, National and Labour, each have different beliefs and values which lead to different ideologies. Looking at both parties previous and current policies, we can observe the impact of the ideologies they have adopted on their policy making. The National party in the last 20 years has driven policies from a neo-liberal viewpoint, focussing on minimal state intervention. The Labour party, in contrast, is looked at as being the flagbearer for social democracy (Eichbaum & Shaw, 2008), and their policies are influenced from this ideology. An ideology is a coherent set of ideas and values. Ideologies justify specific policies and support specific groups; such as social or economic. It extends into an assessment of the existing state of social and economic affairs, and a political strategy for shifting from one to another (Eichbaum & Shaw, 2008). Social issues, and the way in which policies are created and explained, will be shaped by the values and ideas of those who have the most political influence on society at the time. These ideas are commonly grouped into political ideologies. Political ideologies are the groups of ideas and ethical values, based on the core behind, and the solution for, social and economic problems (Duncan, 2007). They are both normative and politically motivated. Political ideologies are normative in the sense that they hold values about human nature and how society should live their lives, and politically motivated in being supported by political interests (Duncan, 2007). Political parties base their actions and policy making on the ideology they have adopted. The two main ideologies shown through New Zealand policy are neo-liberalism, and social democracy. There is a political distinction drawn between these two ideologies, left and right-wing parties. The right-wing party National, implements their policies under a neo-liberal ideology. The more left-wing party Labour, implements their policy under a more social democratic group of ideas. Neo-liberalism promotes the value of a free market, individualism, and a minimal state. To neo-liberalists, a free market is best for economic growth and distributes wealth fairly. An individual is better off by means of their own efforts, and satisfying their own needs. This then develops the capability to trade with others, which is an important idea of the neo-liberal ideology (Belgrave, Cheyne, & O’Brien, 2008). By leaving individuals to their own needs doesn’t distribute wealth fairly in the end as not all individuals are the same. Individualism or freedom means that citizens care for their own needs, as they are the only ones who make the best decisions. The exercise of individual freedom in relation to private property is an important part of the neo-liberal ideology, and the state should do as much as possible to ensure this freedom is not restricted (Belgrave, Cheyne, & O’Brien, 2008). In a neo-liberal view, this freedom is often referred to as negative freedom, opposing the social democratic view of positive freedom. Neo-liberalists don’t see policy as distinct from economic policy. This is because under the ideology of a neo-liberal idea, if you get economic policies right then social policy should follow. Neo-liberalists also believe in having a minimal state. A state should only focus on the core actions such as policy making and the courts. The state has a responsibility to ensure that laws which are put in place to allow the market to operate more effectively are applied in a way that prescribes no...
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