Domestic vs. Foreign Policy: Definition, Differences & Policymaking

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  • 0:04 Domestic Policy
  • 2:40 Foreign Policy
  • 3:28 Differences Between the Two
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vericia Miller
In this lesson, you'll learn about domestic and foreign policy and the differences between each. You'll also explore how they are used to address issues on both a domestic and global scale.

Domestic Policy

Before we get into the lesson, let's first begin by defining the word policy. A policy is a law, guideline, principle, or strategy used to a solve a problem or problems. When policies are implemented and enforced, they help to address issues that are important to the general public. Domestic policies are laws designed to deal with or address issues within a particular country. We have many domestic policies here in the United States. Policies are domestic when they're enforced within the country they are passed. Any laws or policies passed within the borders of this country (United States) would be considered domestic because they are laws that affect and/or pertain to this country only. Domestic policies can be passed at the local, state, or federal level. Laws that are passed are sometimes federal, meaning they pertain to the entire country or state laws that apply to a particular state. But regardless, they're still considered domestic.

Domestic policies are broad and can cover various issues important to society; for example, there are social domestic policies covering just about every social issue you can think of. Abortion, capital punishment, domestic violence, human trafficking, homelessness, illegal drugs, etc. are all examples. Domestic policies help to solve issues by putting forth plans, laws, or even programs to make improvements within society.

A good example of a domestic policy recently passed in California is the decriminalization of childhood prostitution. In Jan. of 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Bill 1322 which prohibits law enforcement from making arrests of anyone soliciting under the age of 18. No, prostitution isn't legal in the State of CA. This law was passed for the purpose of helping minors get the supportive services they need, which shouldn't be jail time and a juvenile record. This policy was passed as a form of rehabilitation for youth rather than punishment of youth. This is an example of a domestic policy passed at the state level. This law does not pertain to minors in any other state because it was passed in CA. Domestic policies can be passed and implemented on a local, state, or federal level.

Domestic policies are not just laws passed. They can be defined that way, but it's much more diverse in meaning than that. Domestic policies also refer to the decisions that are made and actions that are taken by our state and federal governments. Just keep in mind that a domestic policy pertains to any law, solution, or decision to a problem that occurs within the borders of this country only. Domestic policy is domestic because it does not involve other countries.

Foreign Policy

Does the United States have to have relations with other countries? Do we have to insert ourselves into the affairs of other countries? Why should we care if we get along with other countries or not? The reason why foreign policy is such a huge topic on every president's campaign agenda is that the type of relationship we have with other countries has a lot to do with our reputation and moral standing in the world. Foreign policy refers to the actions one country takes to improve relations with another. Foreign policies are the decisions and choices a country makes, in conjunction with another, for the purpose of improving a quality of life, solving a specific problem, helping a helpless population, etc. Foreign policy has to do with the decisions, agreements, and treaties made between two or more nations for the betterment of both.

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