Solving Public Problems

A public problem is one that

  • Involves questions of facts and values
  • Occurs in a public setting
  • Affects us as citizens rather than as individuals


Public values are usually based on

  • Liberty (freedom, choice, opportunity)
  • Equality (fairness, justice, tolerance)
  • Prosperity (economy, efficiency, standard of living)
  • Community (safety, security, quality of living)


To resolve differences in public problems

  • Frame the problem (define the problem, determine the values involved, bring the public to learn as much as possible about the problem—both facts and values)
  • Create public choices (an array of choices, each embodying different value positions; promote community discussion of those choices)
  • Make public decisions (solution is one that best balances the values, not a single, “right” solution; decision determined by benefit to community as a whole)


From Phillip Boyle, “Public Problems, Values, and Choices,” Popular Government, 2001 (Fall), 18-23.


2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 22 January 2004