What is “Tech” Policy… for that matter what is “policy”?

tps2009jI am not usually a person who sits around considering policy but I’m spending a few days at Tech Policy Summit 09 so I am all of a sudden tuned into the topic.

Even after just two sessions I am realizing this is a huge topic–for two reasons.  My first realization is that there is not really a limited area called “Tech” Policy.  As technology moves into everyday life, everything becomes tech policy.  For example, we know that spectrum regulation or rural broadband tax incentives could be considered tech policy.  And we can even stretch to think of copyright as tech policy (e.g. is linking to an article violating a copyright).  But couldn’t we consider education policy as tech policy if it effects how many engineers the country is creating?  In fact is there anything (ok, many things) that could not touch the tech industry in some way or another.

Second, what is policy?  Yes, its legislation and its tax incentives and its stimulus spending allocation.  But isn’t fear (as in fear of legislation or fear of consumer advocates) as powerful a policy force as the actual legislation.  And can’t inaction be policy as much as active regulation?

Just some thoughts from a policy novice.  Any thoughts from others?