2.9 Example of the Analysis Method

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/29.htm)

This book describes how issues can be analysed from the perspectives of different stakeholders in each of the relevant dimensions of power.  The crime of theft is used here to provide a simple example; it can be analysed in all five dimensions and it has four stakeholders: the thief, the victim, the insurance company and the wider society.

  • Personal theft, one person stealing from another, is regarded as immoral in all major religions.  There is an explicit injunction against it, in the Ten Commandments in the Bible for example (Exodus 20:15).  No system of ethics is likely to condone theft in any but the most unusual circumstances.  In any group of people, the effectiveness of the Moral Dimension could be measured by the extent to which most of them would refrain from stealing on purely moral grounds, irrespective of whether there was any chance of being caught, because they had been influenced by their upbringing and by the desire for the good opinion of others in the community.  Dependent upon the effectiveness of morality, there might be more or less need for anti-theft measures in other dimensions of governance.
  • Theft is against the law in every legal system.  The law and morality are complementary in this example: the law provides a backstop to deal with failures of morality.  Laws on theft may contain detailed definitions, which have to be adjusted in response to new forms of theft, and they may prescribe the punishment to be applied when the law is broken.  Penalties may deter potential thieves.
  • The prevalence of theft is reduced by the moral and legal pressures, but it also reflects practical considerations: how physically easy it is to steal something, the likelihood of getting caught and the consequences to the thief.  The level of formal policing that is provided by government depends partly upon what assumptions are made about the measures of self-protection that people provide for themselves: locks, alarm systems, private security guards etc.
  • Theft may be economically motivated and it has an economic impact on its victims and on society as a whole.  Insurance companies use an economic perspective when calculating what level of premium to charge for insuring against theft: the risk of it happening and the size of potential pay-outs.  Customers may be offered lower premiums if they take measures to protect themselves and thereby reduce the risk of thefts occurring.  Society as a whole is an economic stakeholder, because taxes have to be levied to pay for the enforcement of the law.
  • Governments’ power depends on their popularity, which depends upon their perceived effectiveness.  Cutting crime is popular – but increased taxation, to pay for more police, is unpopular.  When considering this topic, the politicians take media reporting into account because that affects public opinion.

This example of theft is typical of many issues, in that it can be analysed in more than one dimension.  Each relevant dimension should be considered from the perspective of each stakeholder, to fully understand an issue.

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