6.3.3.2 Competence

The public is entitled to expect that politicians are competent collectively and individually.  They should all support policies which they believe would benefit the public, despite their differences of ideology and approach to government (6.2.1).  The following list is indicative of key policy areas requiring competence:

  • The criteria for the acceptability of governance that appeared at the start of this book (2.1) include maintaining law and order, preventing hardship, and providing the infrastructure and regulatory framework to enable the economy to run smoothly
  • Politicians can be held accountable for the smooth running of public services, as described below (6.3.3.5).
  • A government is responsible for setting the levels of government spend and taxation, to provide the services and benefits it has promised. A competent team would avoid running a ‘structural deficit’, where it spends more than it receives in taxes through an economic cycle (3.3.8.1).
  • Prudence is an essential aspect of political competence. Politicians should take account of the likely future impact of current decisions in such matters as peaceful pluralism, impact on the environment, foreign policy, the use of military force etc. etc.
  • Negotiation is a key aspect of their role: with each other to form policy, with the public to win its support for policies, with institutions and private service-providers, and with representatives of other countries.

Politicians don’t require deeply specialised skills – they can call upon those who do – but they need more knowledge than the average ‘man in the street’ and they should be good at listening and interpreting, to educate themselves about major issues.

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This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6332.htm