9.4   Holding Leaders to Account

(This is an archived page, from Edition 2 of the Patterns of Power book.  The current versions is at https://www.patternsofpower.org/patterns/renegotiating/accountability/).

There is an obvious need to hold leaders to account for their performance in the Political Dimension, where they are appointed to act for the benefit of the people.  Politicians should not be allowed to continue in power if they are dishonest or incompetent.  There are some notably sensitive aspects of their role:

·     Prudence is particularly important in managing a country’s budget for tax and government spending, so that government debt doesn’t spiral out of control (3.3.8.1).  The complexity of economics, though, often enables politicians to deflect criticism (3.3.9.2).

·     When leaders aspire to both political and moral power, for example using religion as a way of claiming to represent God, they are practising identity politics (6.7.4.2).  This is a pattern of power which works against the interests of the population and has repeatedly caused enormous suffering.

·     In the Legal Dimension there should be a separation of powers (5.2.8), to preserve the impartiality of the law.

·     Politicians who form part of a legislature (5.2.1) can be held accountable for the acceptability of the laws they make (5.4.3).  Unacceptable laws are unenforceable.

·     It can be argued that politicians have a duty to be prudent in responding to climate change (6.7.5).

·     Corruption is a common problem (7.2.5); corrupt politicians should be held to account.

·     It has repeatedly proved to be imprudent to embark upon foreign wars without the approval of the United Nations (7.3.2.1).  Remote interventions such as air strikes (7.3.2.2), drone strikes (7.3.2.3) and covert intervention (7.3.4) are also imprudent because they help to increase resistance against the perpetrators.  A coercive foreign policy (6.7.7.1) is imprudent from a security perspective (7.4.7).

It should be possible for the population to audit all aspects of political governance (6.8.5.1), especially those referred to above.  Politicians can be held to account (6.8.5.2) by disciplinary action, including dismissal, or by taking legal action against them. 

Accountability is also important in other dimensions:

·     Business leaders should be held to account within a framework of corporate governance (3.5.6.1), although this has not always happened – so there is scope for improvement (3.5.6.3).

·     Markets apply their own discipline to the providers of unsatisfactory goods and services (3.3.2).

·     The financial sector should be better regulated (3.3.4.4).

·     The followers of moral leaders are responsible for holding them to account (4.4.6.5), by opposing them or deserting them if necessary.  It is rarely possible for the law to help.

Mechanisms of accountability, using disciplinary procedures, ought also to exist at every level of management in every organisation and profession.

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014