9.7 Requirements Checklist

(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/edition03/97.htm)

It is now appropriate to review this book’s analysis: looking back to check that it has identified patterns of power that could meet people’s requirements for how they want to be governed.

The term ‘acceptability’ (2.3) has been used here as a measure of governance performance.  As Michael Oakeshott wrote:

“The authority of the state is not mere government and law, nor is it founded upon a contract or any other form of the consent of the people, but resides solely in the completeness of the satisfaction which the state itself affords to the needs of concrete persons.” [1]

Although there is no ‘contract’ as such with the State, there is a set of mutual expectations that amounts to one.  The State expects people to comply with its governance and the population expects the governance to be acceptable.

Some, necessarily subjective, criteria for good governance were suggested at the start of this book (2.1); the following checklist identifies some ways of meeting these requirements:

  1. National law protects people from physical threats within most countries (5.2.5); and depoliticised international law would improve security between countries (9.5).  Collaborative action is needed to counter environmental threats (3.5.7) – and some political action is already being taken (6.7.5).  Welfare benefits (6.7.1.3), or international humanitarian assistance (4.3.5.1) if necessary, can protect people from economic hardship.
  2. People’s opportunity to flourish depends on their safety and on upon their ability to meet their basic needs (4.2.4.3) – including food, shelter, health and education – within an economic system that allows everyone to prosper (3.5.9).
  3. Policies of inclusivity (9.3) support a cohesive society, within which people have rights and responsibilities (6.7.3).
  4. Governments can provide public services and infrastructure if they can use money raised from taxation (6.7.1); they can also ensure that services are competently managed (6.6.2).
  5. An economy that is managed for everyone’s benefit requires competent macro-economic management (3.3.8) within a system that benefits everyone (3.5.9).
  6. The performance of politicians can be encouraged by holding them to account (9.4). The rules under which they operate can be legally defined (5.2.3).
  7. It is possible to allow meaningful negotiation in any political system (6.8.4).
  8. Politicians are more likely to act in the public interest (6.3.3) if they can be held to account (9.4).
  9. Some checks and balances are needed in the processes for appointing politicians (6.8.2). It should be possible to dismiss them (6.8.5.2) and limits to tenure are a safeguard in any political system (6.3.4.3).
  10. It is possible to avoid placing undue restrictions on people’s freedom (9.2). People can also make choices:
  • They have a choice of employment if the labour market is unrestricted (3.3.3).
  • They can spend their disposable income as they choose (3.2.2).
  • They can choose public services if these are provided by civil society (3.5.3.2) or privately (3.5.3.3).
  • Their moral choices need not be constrained by restrictive laws (5.4.4).
  • They can elect politicians in democratic political systems (6.3.2), and any government can offer consultation to find out what people want (6.5.3).
  • Freedom of belief can be guaranteed (6.7.4.8).
  1. Policies of inclusivity (9.3) can ensure that everyone is treated equally in all four dimensions of governance, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, age, wealth or education.
  2. Human rights are an explicit agreement on standards of behaviour and on the entitlements that a society wishes to grant to its citizens (4.2.4).  These rights can be guaranteed to everyone in the society to some extent:
  • The law can be used to enforce human rights (5.4.7), with a possibility of appeal to international courts.
  • Socio-economic rights can be politically guaranteed (6.7.1).
  • The freedom to influence political governance is itself a right (6.8.3) and the negotiability of governance is a safeguard to protect other rights (6.8.4).

This summary indicates that it is possible to meet all the criteria for good governance which were suggested at the start of this book, although societies will inevitably take different paths.  There is no universal ‘right answer’.  This book offers its method of assessing the acceptability of governance, as a contribution towards the negotiations required to improve it.

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[1] Michael Oakeshott, The Authority of the State, from Religion, Politics and the Moral Life, p.87.