The Elusive Art of Good Government

Quality, Productivity, and Service –
three words not normally associated with Government today!

If these ideals are to be applied effectively, the function of Government must first be precisely defined; we cannot measure the productivity of a service without first defining its purpose.

The current activities of Government fall into three broad categories: Laws, Infrastructure, and Welfare.

The provision of Law is the essential "core function" of Government: the formulation of Law and its Enforcement, or more specifically, those Legislative, Protective and Constitutional Services essential to and directly related to the protection of Liberty.

If Government is to exercise its regulatory function without bias it cannot own or operate any non-political services or industries, including infrastructure and Essential Services.

Infrastructure and Essential Services must be operated outside Government, but with Government's strict legal supervision.

With the purpose and function of Government clearly defined, it becomes much easier to apply strict financial and administrative disciplines to ensure that Government fulfills its own core functions as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible with continuously rising productivity, public disclosure and accountability. Clear job descriptions and benchmarks for each department allow for accurate assessment of performance.

Many existing government departments and programs would inevitably be abandoned as being non-essential, while each of those remaining would be required to state clearly what it is doing, what it is costing, and the extent to which it is fulfilling its stated objectives productively.

Government is a service to its consumers and as such should be subject to the strictest possible commercial disciplines; its performance should be at least as good as and preferably better than the Private Sector. Any Commercial Legislation relating to accounting, standards, productivity or quality of Private Sector business and commerce should immediately and automatically apply to any and all functions of Government.

The process of auditing and applying the necessary disciplines to Government should be entrusted to a specially constituted Committee with Constitutional status; no institution, least of all Government, can be trusted to discipline itself.

The aim of Government should be the same as that of any well-run Private Sector industry or service: to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible price.

Throughout private sector business and industry, managements are under constant underlying pressure to be ever on the alert. It is easy to let quality slip, to miss an opportunity to improve productivity, or to fill a new market need. No one accepts pressure through choice. The need arises only because competition can overtake a business, even cause its demise.

Commercial monopolies do not suffer such pressures, thus it is easier for service standards to stagnate or fall back. Yet there is an escape route for dissatisfied customers: one can always, or almost always opt out. If your electricity supplier really annoys you, you can close the account and light your home with oil lamps. Inconvenient perhaps, but the option remains, for though a monopoly supplier, your power company does not require you to use its services. It is not an enforced monopoly. It is in this respect that Government stands alone. Government is not only a monopoly, it is the one single unique example of an enforced monopoly, there is no option to reject it, and refusal to pay its taxes is a crime.

Thus it is of the utmost importance that honesty, productivity, accounts, transparency and service standards in all aspects of Government and Government Services be rigorously monitored, enforced and maximized. The best possible service, the lowest possible cost. Always.

That we should confine ourselves to those actions and activities which are not detrimental or disadvantageous to others, which do not harm or injure others, is as old as human conscience. We should all have the freedom to enjoy life and improve ourselves as we choose and are able. But we should not do so in ways which are harmful or detrimental to others. The parallel concept of Government, that it exists primarily to prevent such actions, has likewise existed in political philosophy as expounded by reformers throughout recorded history.

Yet as history has also shown, and continues to demonstrate today, unchecked power over others will – not may, but most certainly and surely will – lead to abuse, misuse, corruption and oppression. Clear limitations upon the scope of government action are therefore essential.

And the ideal that Government, its function clearly defined and limited, should exercise its duties efficiently and at minimum cost to its customers, is a dream long cherished by reformers and tax-payers alike.

It may one day be fulfilled.

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