9.7 Requirements Checklist

This book concludes with responses to the requirements checklist: aspects of governance needing to be reviewed for acceptability.

Some, necessarily subjective, criteria for what people might want from governance were suggested at the start of this book (2.1) – and they constitute the requirements checklist referred to here.  The term ‘acceptability’ is used as a measure of governance performance that would satisfy most people (2.3).

This is an extract from this book’s analysis: looking back to check that it has identified patterns of power that are acceptable to the population.  The book aims to provide an overall survey of every pattern of power exercised in a society, showing some of them to be unhelpful or even dangerous.  The following list of the most significant responses to the requirements checklist is a series of links to patterns of power which need repeated attention, or which could be renegotiated to provide better governance.

It lists some qualities that people are likely to want from governance, what kind of behaviour they expect from politicians, and what relationship they want with those in power.  Many of the topics covered here can be looked at from more than one perspective, as in political control over many of the levers of economic power for example, so two or more links are shown in such cases.

1.        Protecting people from suffering.

Avoiding wars is of prime importance.  2023 was an uncomfortable year, for example.  This is primarily a matter of better political foreign policy (6.7.7), with more emphasis on soft power than on coercion, and working within a rules-based international order.  A more robust way of managing international security would be helpful (9.5).

Protecting the environment could play a big part prevent human suffering (3.5.7), (6.7.5).  It is a matter of the utmost urgency: climate change is already visible and it’s getting worse.

The State can provide a level of economic protection for the individual (3.2.3), (6.7.1); the economy can be regulated to protect people from harmful practices (3.3.1); and international assistance can be provided for people in developing economies (3.5.8), (4.3.5), (6.7.6).

Individual security depends on the maintenance of law and order (5.2.5), although people can take some measures to protect themselves (7.2.3).

2.        Enabling everyone to have the opportunity to flourish.

There are measures that can enable people to prosper (9.2.3), if everyone behaves responsibly (9.2.4).

3.        A cohesive society in which people feel supported.

Groups of people provide support to each other as a reward for conforming to expected behaviour (4.3.2).

People can feel supported by laws that have been framed to be acceptable (5.4.3).

People can feel supported by the political system if they are consulted about what they want (6.5.3).

There are ways of ensuring that nobody is excluded (9.3).

4.        Adequate public services and infrastructure.

Governments can provide public services (3.5.3) and infrastructure (3.2.8), if those who benefit from the economy contribute fairly to pay for these (3.5.1).

Services can be competently managed if they are organised at an appropriate level of subsidiarity (6.6.2).

5.        An economy that is managed for everyone’s benefit.

This requires competent macro-economic management (3.3.8), within an economic system that benefits everyone (3.5.9).

Politicians hold many of the levers of economic power (6.7.1).

6.        Politicians who are competent, trustworthy and conform to established rules.

Politicians should conform to the rules set within the country’s constitution (5.2.3).

The public has a right to expect those who govern to be competent and to maintain high standards of behaviour (6.3.3).

Prudence – looking ahead – is an important aspect of competence (9.4).

7.        Responsive governance that allows meaningful negotiation.

People negotiate with each other to set behavioural expectations, and tolerance is essential when they do that (4.4).

There is negotiation within the legislature when laws are being framed (5.4.1).

And negotiability can be provided in any political system (6.8.4).  Education is essential for the population to participate meaningfully (6.8.1), as is the individual’s effort to get involved (4.3.4), (6.6.1).

8.        Politicians who serve the public interest and don’t abuse their power for personal gain.

Politicians must balance the political pressures on them, to serve the public interest (6.4.6).

They can find out what people want, in any political system, by consultation (6.5.3).

If they fail to deliver satisfaction, or if their behaviour is open to criticism, it must be possible to hold them to account – as described below.

9.        Acceptable processes for appointing and removing politicians.

There are several problems in ensuring that the right people are appointed as politicians (6.8.2).  It is therefore all the more important that they can be held to account (6.8.5).

10.    Avoiding undue restrictions on people’s freedom.

Threats to freedom by oppressive governments need to be averted (9.2.1), and individuals want as much freedom as possible, as far as that is consistent with the need to protect the rights and freedoms of other people (9.2.2).  This is an area of deep division between individualists and collectivists (2.2), and it needs to be regularly renegotiated as circumstances change (6.2.6).

11.    Treating everyone equally and treating no-one unjustly.

Everyone can be treated equally in all four dimensions of governance, regardless of ethnicity, age, wealth, health or education.  Consistent respect for human rights, as described below, is important.

Economic inclusivity is possible, despite recent changes from technology and globalisation (9.3.1).

Ethnic discrimination needs to be avoided (9.3.2).  This problem has intensified as people move around the world seeking safety and employment.

12.    Respecting people’s human rights.

Human rights are an explicit agreement on standards of behaviour, and on the entitlements that a society wishes to grant to its citizens (4.2.4).  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is included as Appendix 1 to this book.

The law can be used to enforce human rights (5.4.7), with a possibility of appeal to international courts.

Compliance with international human rights is an important component of political legitimacy (6.3.7).

Socio-economic rights can be politically guaranteed (6.7.1).

The freedom to influence political governance is itself a right (6.8.3), and the negotiability of governance is a safeguard to protect other rights (6.8.4).


The above list shows that it is possible to meet all the criteria for good governance which were suggested at the start of this book, if people want to co-operate with others, although societies will inevitably take different paths.  There is no universal ‘right answer’.  This book offers its method of assessing the acceptability of governance, as a contribution towards the negotiations required to improve it.


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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/edition04/97.htm.