Difference between Rule and Policy

Key Difference: Rules are guidelines that are provided to maintain smooth functioning of an organization and to maintain peace and harmony among its people. Rules are also an informal set of guidelines that state what a person must and must not do. A policy is a document that outlines what a government is going to do and what it can achieve for the society as a whole. It also outlines any and all methods and principles that the government or any entity, for that matter, will use to achieve its directive.

Rules and policies play an important part in the society.  They maintain order and peace to the country. A society without a rules and policies would end up in chaos and fall, hence it is important that people know what they can and cannot do when it comes to certain things. Many people often confuse rules and policies as being the same thing. However, they differ from each other.

Rules are guidelines that are provided to maintain smooth functioning of an organization and to maintain peace and harmony among its people. Rules are also an informal set of guidelines that state what a person must and must not do. Rules are prone to being changed and altered depending on the place, organization and people. Rules are a less formal set of guidelines which has little or no consequences depending on the person that is enforcing them. Rules are also enforced by the person that is making the rule. For example, rules created in a household are enforced by the parent that created the rules. Similarly, rules established in a classroom are enforced by the teacher or the school administration. Rules enacted inside the household differ from the rules enacted inside the classroom. This is because rules are more detailed guidelines and must be changed depending on the situation. Many people often believe that rules that are established in the childhood helps a person to understand laws that are created by the government and also makes him follow the laws strictly. Rules also have smaller consequences and punishment such as no TV time, or no allowance, taking away of cellphones, etc.

Dictionary.com defines ‘rule’ as:

  • A principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement
  • The customary or normal circumstance, occurrence, manner, practice, quality, etc.

To control or direct; exercise dominating power, authority, or influence over; govern.

  • To decide or declare judicially or authoritatively
  • To make a formal decision or ruling, as on a point at law.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a policy is a "set of decisions which are oriented towards a long-term purpose or to a particular problem." A policy is a document that outlines what a government is going to do and what it can achieve for the society as a whole. It also outlines any and all methods and principles that the government or any entity, for that matter, will use to achieve its directive. Essentially, a policy sets out the goals and planned activities of an entity, whereas a law may be needed to pass to enable government to put in place the necessary institutional and legal frameworks to achieve their aims as set out in the policy. A policy is an informal document that just lists and states what must be done and what is intended to be done in the future.

Dictionary.com defines ‘policy’ as:

  • A definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.: We have a new company policy.
  • A course of action adopted and pursued by a government, ruler, political party, etc.: our nation's foreign policy.
  • Action or procedure conforming to or considered with reference to prudence or expediency: It was good policy to consent.
  • Sagacity; shrewdness: Showing great policy, he pitted his enemies against one another.

Rules and policies differ from each other in various ways. Rules are an informal set of guidelines that tell people what they can do and what they cannot do, while policies are a list of objectives that tell the people what the government intends to do in the near future. Rules are considered as more rigid than policies, as policies can fall apart if it is not supported. For example, the government issues a policy regarding recycling, but if it does receive the monetary support it can easily discard the policy and create a new one. Rules that are issued for everyone are less likely to change unless they have become outdated or are contested in the court.

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