6.2.6.3 Dealing with Issues that Arise

As noted at the start of this book, a key objective of good governance is that it should be inclusive (2.5).  As far as possible, it should allow everyone to flourish and avoid harming them. The political response to any issue has the potential to harm people, or to alienate them, so an inclusive approach is desirable.

Centrism is a safe direction.  It could, perhaps should, be regarded as a distinct and recognised political philosophy.  It can be defined as the politics of accommodating people of different views and cultures, avoiding extremes, to maximise the number of people to whom governance is acceptable.  It is a form of pragmatism which exploits the overlap that exists between moderate political viewpoints: Lockean individualism (6.2.2.2), Burkean stewardship (6.2.4.1), social democracy (6.2.3.1) and pragmatic progressivism (6.2.5.1).  Most people occupy the centre ground of politics and moderate decisions can easily be defended.

Each political ideology and implementation approach has some validity – so complex issues should be examined from each perspective:

  • Individualists (6.2.2) aim to avoid government intervention by encouraging people to buy their own services, although it would also be necessary to enquire whether regulation might be needed.
  • Collectivists (6.2.3) want to broadly benefit society as a whole, trying to be fair to everybody and avoiding harm to people’s human rights, but people’s desire for freedom of choice should not be ignored.
  • Conservatives (6.2.4) try to avoid change, preferring to persuade people to behave differently within the current system. If change could not be avoided, they might then ask how its disruptive impact might be minimised.
  • Progressives (6.2.5) seek to improve society by government intervention, perhaps by improving or replacing current systems. A risk analysis would be appropriate if making the case for radical change.

Some form of negotiation is necessary to resolve the tensions between these ideologies and approaches, to reach agreements that receive cross-party support in a democracy.  Negotiations need to take account of the relative priorities of any spending compared to other government programmes and the impact on the overall economy.  Political parties in a coalition negotiate with each other to agree policies which are acceptable to each partner, and in practice this results in a tendency to stay on a centrist course.  A two-party system needs to include enough moderate politicians to make negotiation between the parties possible.

Some politicians do not want to compromise with others, but centrism is a better option than what The Economist described as Britain’s nightmare before Christmas in the 2019 election – when Boris Johnson had ejected the Burkean element of his party, having moved decisively towards its radical Thatcherite element, and Jeremy Corbyn was advocating extreme socialism.  The corrosive and dysfunctional impact of confrontational behaviour, and the resulting polarisation of politics, is examined later in this chapter (6.3.2.8).

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This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6263b.htm