9.2.3 Giving People the Opportunity to Flourish

Governance has a role in giving people the opportunity to flourish: enabling them to have a realistic chance of living fulfilling lives.

Individual freedom is meaningless in practice unless one has a realistic opportunity of exercising it.  Baroness Minouche Shafik, in her book What We Owe Each Other, argued that “We need a new social contract fit for the 21st century”:

“This new social contract depends on three pillars: security, shared risk, and opportunity.”

“The bottom line is that everyone must have a minimum level of security for a decent life.”

“Employer flexibility when it comes to being able to hire and fire workers depending on market conditions is feasible if workers are guaranteed unemployment insurance and retraining until they find a new job. The risks from economic shocks should be shared by employers and society as a whole and not placed solely on individuals.”

“Harnessing everyone’s talents is not just an issue of fairness; it is also good for the economy.”

Agreement is needed on the role of the State in giving people the opportunity to flourish: to achieve their potential and be secure in the way that she envisaged.  The following list suggests some appropriate measures:

●  Politicians can manage the economy for everyone’s benefit (3.5.9).

●  They can grant human rights and entitlements (4.2.4). These include socio-economic rights such as welfare benefits for people in need, and access to education and health services.

●  The law can safeguard people (5.2.5) in a manner that most find acceptable (5.4.3).

●  Politicians determine how much to spend on public goods and services (6.7.1).

●  They can protect the interests of ethnic minorities (6.7.4).

●  Governments can adopt a responsible foreign policy, to reap the benefits of cooperating with other countries whilst averting external threats (6.7.7).

Conversely, government can be a threat to freedom if it takes the form of domination, as described earlier (9.2.1).  Meaningful negotiation is a safeguard which prevents such domination:

●  Political systems offer varying degrees of control over how politicians are appointed (6.8.2). People then need to be able to influence those politicians (6.8.3) and to be able to negotiate governance changes (6.8.4).

●  The Legal Dimension has some negotiability if the legislature is a representative body (5.2.1).

●  Political problems are somewhat mitigated if one has the freedom to leave, to live somewhere else with a preferable system. Ideally, though, it should not be necessary to leave one’s country to escape oppression.

These freedoms would ideally be provided within each country, but an international pressure might also be needed to protect populations from governments who infringe agreed rights (6.3.7).



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/edition04/923a.htm.