2.3 Acceptability of Governance

For this book, the acceptability of governance is the most important criterion of assessment

The stability of governance is dependent upon its acceptability.  The words ‘acceptable’ and ‘acceptability’, which are matters of personal judgement, are used repeatedly in this book.  As the term is used here, governance is minimally ‘acceptable’ to an individual if it is ‘tolerable’ – which is to say that the individual is prepared to comply with it and that it is not so bad as to constitute a sufficient reason for that person to try to overthrow it.

The acceptability of governance can be thought of as being on a scale between what is tolerable up to the (improbable) state of people feeling that no further improvement is possible.  There is no means of quantifying acceptability, but each individual can judge that one arrangement is more acceptable than another.

Everyone has personal requirements from governance, as described earlier (2.1).  It will be more acceptable if it more closely matches their preferences.  People differ, though, so the best that can be done for governance of an entire population is to increase satisfaction in aggregate whilst not being intolerable for anyone.

For many people, tolerable governance could be simply defined by having enough to eat and being able to live in peace – but those in power should aim to offer more than the minimum.  The following three sub-sections examine some issues:

People are more likely to feel that governance is acceptable if it complies with their sense of justice (2.3.1).  Many philosophers have proposed principles of justice, but these cannot be universal; societies have to develop their own criteria, according to their culture and circumstances.

Governance depends on the support of the majority of the population, in what amounts to a contract between those in power and those who are subject to it (2.3.2).  Some governance is better than none, so broad compliance should continue even when trying to change aspects of the system.

Acceptability can be increased (2.3.3) by governance which offers people choice and allows them to negotiate changes.



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/23.htm.