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A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome(s). The term is not normally used to denote what is actually done, which is normally referred to as either procedure or protocol. Policies can assist in both subjective and objective decision making.


  • "Policy" is the negation of politics; policy is by definition something concocted by some form of elite, which presumes it knows better than others how their affairs are to be conducted. By participating in policy debates the very best one can achieve is to limit the damage, since the very premise is inimical to the idea of people managing their own affairs.
    • David Graeber, Fragments for an Anarchist Anthropology (2004), p. 9
  • [Policy] is like a play in many acts, which unfolds inevitably once the curtain is raised. To declare then that the performance will not take place is an absurdity. The play will go on, either by means of the actors … or by means of the spectators who mount the stage…. Intelligent people never consider this the essence of the problem, however. For them it lies in the decision whether the curtain is to be raised at all, whether the spectators are to be assembled and in the intrinsic quality of the play.
    • Klemens von Metternich, Aus Metternich's Nachgelassenen Papieren (1880), vol. 8, p. 190, as quoted by Henry Kissinger, A World Restored (1957), chapter 4, p. 41.
  • Turn him to any cause of policy,
    The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
    Familiar as his garter: that, when he speaks,
    The air, a charter'd libertine, is still.
  • To beguile the time,
    Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
    Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
    But be the serpent under 't.
  • Policy-making, an attribute of sovereignty for which the government of the day is supposedly accountable to its people.
  • Needless to say, policy-making is a terrain of intense conflicts of interest, and has nothing neutral about it. The question is, as always, which interest is being served by a particular policy. A question about which there can be neither neutrality nor non-partisanship.
  • We shall not I believe, be obliged to alter our policy of watchful waiting.
    • Woodrow Wilson, Annual Message (December 2, 1913), alluding to Mexico.
  • We have stood apart, studiously neutral.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 610.
  • Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still, he was never a whit abashed, but said, "If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill."
  • It is better to walk than to run; it is better to stand than to walk; it is better to sit than to stand; it is better to lie than to sit.
    • Hindu proverb.
  • Masterly inactivity.
  • When I see a merchant over-polite to his customers, begging them to taste a little brandy and throwing half his goods on the counter,—thinks I, that man has an axe to grind.
  • The publick weal requires that a man should betray, and lye, and massacre.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)

  • In a scheme of policy which is devised for a nation, we should not limit our views to its operation during a single year, or even for a short term of years. We should look at its operation for a considerable time, and in war as well as in peace.
    • Henry Clay. The Clay Code, or Text-Book of Eloquence, a Collection of Axioms, Apothegms, Sentiments … Gathered from the Public Speeches of Henry Clay, ed. G. Vandenhoff, p. 95 (1844).
  • You have despoiled churches. You have threatened every corporation and endowment in the country. You have examined into everybody's affairs. You have criticised every profession and vexed every trade. No one is certain of his property, and nobody knows what duties he may have to perform to-morrow. This is the policy of confiscation as compared with that of concurrent endowment.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, speech on the University Education Bill (Ireland), House of Commons, March 11, 1873.—Selected Speeches of the Late Right Honourable the Earl of Beaconsfield, ed. T. E. Kebbel, vol. 2, p. 390 (1882).
  • There is no such thing as a fixed policy, because policy like all organic entities is always in the making.
  • There is an eternal dispute between those who imagine the world to suit their policy, and those who correct their policy to suit the realities of the world.
    • Attributed to Albert Sorel. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • In the tragic days of Mussolini, the trains in Italy ran on time as never before and I am told in their way, their horrible way, that the Nazi concentration-camp system in Germany was a model of horrible efficiency. The really basic thing in government is policy. Bad administration, to be sure, can destroy good policy, but good administration can never save bad policy.
    • Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois, speech before the Los Angeles Town Club, Los Angeles, California, September 11, 1952.—Speeches of Adlai Stevenson, p. 36 (1952).

See also

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