What’s the future of government?

A multitude of people worldwide are discontent with their politicians. So how can government become relevant and meet expectations? The World Economic Forum addressed how politicians can respond to rapidly changing conditions and expectations in this short video:

Fairness and a shared vision are other issues of relevance that need to be addressed. And how can for instance governments in the Middle East live up to the expectations of their citizens? Will anything short of delivering the jobs expected be accepted?

Globalisation or nationalism?

Maybe the most important aspect is that government increasingly span national borders. The European Union is a good example where EU law trumps national laws. How do you create value under such circumstances? The people who take decisions in Brussels are not elected. Should they be? At the moment EU elections are just a show since the officials that are elected don’t hold much power. The ones that do, are appointed which is not democratic. Isn’t it ironic that Europe, the cradle of democracy, is now governed by a non democratic institution in Brussels?

Are you content or discontent with your government? Can governments respond rapidly to changing conditions and expectations? Can they operate more effectively? Do the complex, interdependent networks around the world have parts to play? Are you pro public-private partnership? Or do you believe we have to be careful of what we privatize? Will politicians find ways to create value that satisfy voters? Will how we are governed increasingly be done at an international level? Or will national governments and nationalism become more important? Should the European Union have more or less power over their member states? Will nationalism increasingly become a trend in order to counteract globalization? In short, what do you think politicians need to do in order to regain confidence? 

Video: The World Economic Forum

46 responses

  1. Our governments are as effective as we make them. My biggest concern about government is our growing collective cynicism or apathy. It will undermine all that we have built. The situation in Brussels is more than ironic, its terrifying. If we are not careful and if we don't as citizens do more than turn away in disinterest or disgust we will find ourselves with nothing more than benevolent dictatorships…benevolent if we are lucky. Our own engagement and insistence on better government will mean we have the governments we want and need. That means voting, but also paying attention after we vote. Democracy only works when you are engaged.
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    • Agree with you completely, Debra. The catch in Sweden is that there is not political party that stand for what you and I want. Not only me but all people I know feel the same. Neo liberal policies has, for instance, a hard grip on politicians and how do you change that when there is no alternative?

  2. This is a subject close to my heart. The provincial government where we live decided to privatize the Crown corp where my husband and I were working back in 1990 for no reason other than ideology. I despise when decisions are made due to political ideology vs looking at the situation and seeing whether the organization is working well as it is.

    • Doreen, decisions made due to political ideologies despite it being negative for the people is spot on. They do it worldwide to benefit multinationals and the people pay the price.

  3. In Australia, at the last election there were very few people who wanted to vote for either of the two main parities. That led to no clear majority. Since then, we have had leadership spill issues and once again two parties that make it difficult to decide who to vote for.
    Something Kevin Rudd is doing well however is appealing to the younger voters and getting out there on social media. His popularity is putting his party in front of the polls at the moment. It is interesting to watch.
    I unfortunately do not have the answers. I wish there was a clear cut way to move forward for the better.
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    • Isn't it interesting, Rebecca, that in many countries the political parties don't stand for what their citizens want? And the small parties that are discontent frequently don't either. So no matter what we do we end up having politians in power that implement policies we don't want.

  4. Catarina — you ask a lot of thoughtful questions. I would say generally that people around the world have lost confidence in their governments. Too much worry about getting re-elected, the inability to compromise for the good of the people, broken promises, etc. I love my country but I, like like of people, am disillusioned with the people in power.
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    • Well said, Jeannette. Agree with you completely about people having lost confidence in their governments, their focus on getting re-elected, broken promises and inability to compromise.

  5. I think one could write a book (or several!) on this topic, Catarina, so I'll try to summarise:
    1. The EU (and the Euro) should not survive in current form. There either needs to be a freely and properly elected government with sovereign currency (United States of Europe, in effect), or a trade body. At the moment, it is the worst of both.
    2. EU law should not be able to override national law, unless the EU body is properly elected.
    3. In general, I believe the rise of the "professional politician" – somebody who has studied PPE/equivalent at university and gone straight into politics without ever having worked in or run a proper business is a disaster. Politicians should have had practical work experience of at least 20 years before entering politics. That way they'll know what they talk about.
    4. Democracy as currently practised in the West is ultimately self-defeating. As more social benefits are put in place – effectively buying votes from the largest segment of the population – so this will continue to expand until point of collapse. Countries today are, in effect, huge conglomerates and should be run more along corporate lines, with the citizens being, in effect, shareholders. Complicated, controversial and beyond the scope of this post, I know :-)

  6. I have long since lost any confidence in government. You can find governments that do some things better than others, sure. But until governments actually work for the people they manage I will remain as far away from them as possible. My hope is that I will live long enough to see a change take place where government actually is run by the people it governs.
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  7. Technology is not the answer here, USA, in my opinion. We have to clean house. There is so much corruption due to the structure of keeping politicians in for a life time. They have voted themselves pensions for life, on taxpayers dimes, so the likelihood of changing term limits is slim. The other biggest problem is the PACs that give the politicians money to run their campaigns: most of that comes from large corporations. Changing the way PACs run would help clean house too. From what I see in the news here, this type of government is widespread throughout the world.

    But really Catarina, having had this type of discussion many times with various friends and acquaintances, the likelihood of changing the power, greed and corruption in particular at the federal government level, is not likely to happen in my lifetime.

    So far now I am active where I can be to change representatives, I remain prayerful and I don't hesitate to use social media to post both sides of an issue to stir the apathy into interest in anyway it might.

    • Agree with you Pat. And, as you rightly point out, the same applies to governments worldwide. Another issue is if they believe they will not be elected they want to make sure they end up on the board of some multi national company. Maybe Europe will become a problem. The Europeans are not used to be poor but poverty is increasing due to the austerities implemented to pay back banks. There is a fine line between anger and unrest.

  8. One way that I am currently discontent with U.S. Government is the how slow the federal minimum wage is to increase. There's a huge push right now to double it. Then many people start to blame low wage workers for being stuck in low-wage jobs. The irony is that many people do not realize how they are already subsidizing stores like Wal-Mart because a good number of their employees are already on public assistance, but so be it sine the store offers such low prices. I no longer shop at Wal-Mart because of how they treat their employees. As a whole, U.S. consumers need to re-evaluate what how they choose to spend their money. The bigger picture often gets overlooked.
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    • Good points that I agree with Jeri. If it's a comfort it's the same everywhere. And this nonsense that unemployed people don't want to work. Sure there is a tiny amount of people who belong in that category. But the majority are unemployed because all the jobs that disappeared in the current economic depression. And since those jobs will not be recreated employment will stay high.

  9. Thanks for starting this discussion, Catarina. Stimulated a lot of thought today as I wrote my weekly column: All Governments Fail Eventually

        • Dan, have personally worked with the majority of governments in the world, and in my opinion, a government that is "great" delivers what they promise. A poor one doesn't. Look at it like a corporation. If shareholders – i.e. voters – are discontent it is a "poor government" and the board will fire them.

          • So then maybe it's not so much that "great" governments fail, as it's great governments deteriorate (as I wrote in my column) and then fail? According to US polls, America has a poor government.

          • All governments get voted out Dan. It's just a question of how long it takes. Sometimes they actually get the blame for circumstances outside of their control. Why? Just because they happen to be in power when something takes place. Sometimes they deteriorate, as you say. That frequently happens when they have been in power too long.

  10. Catarina – Ever since Obama was elected to office I have heard from many people how terrible he is and how he has screwed our country. I am not saying he is perfect but what some people seem to forget is he was brought into office when there were already problems. He not only has to prove himself but also clean up what is already wrong. I honestly believe not one single person has the answer. It takes a team and that is where we fall short.
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    • Absolutely correct, Susan. Implementing ideological policies is having a really detrimental impact on the world and in a company the politicians would, as you say, have been sacked.

  11. Nice blog, and good questions! The short answer to the question of the future of government is that we will see change, eventually, if government doesn't get better at serving society. The values politicians can create are basically individual and group well-being. Unfortunately, thay are not doing that here in the US, and may not be elsewhere either, in many cases because special interests have the money to move politicians whose self interest is re-election and power accretion. My predicition is that here in the US we will continue to see politicians balance the needs of the people against the needs of the special interests in such a way as to avoid catastrophic rebellion (e.g., riots in the streets). The 2007 crash almost pushed us over the edge here, but media propaganda has come a long way since 1929, so it was more manageable this time. To me, the most important question to answer is what are the best success strategies in this evolving environment.

    • Agree with you Jim that the main problem is the power special interest have. They are powerful in all countries but above all in the United States since your supreme court ruled that a company =a person. It happened a few years ago, remember.

  12. I'm not totally agree with the idea that the European institutions are not democratic, because we all elect the parliment, and it's the parliment and the prime ministers of the EU's countries who elect the members of other institutions like ECB or European Comission. I think it's not that different to a non direct election, quite common in a lot of countries of Europe where people choose the parliment, and it chooses the President. Otherwise, a lot of ministers ar ussually not elected members of the parliments in Europeans democracies and I think the paralelism it's clear.

    • The way the European Union works would most likely be OK if EU law didn't trump national law, Arranz. The minimum that could be expected is that at least the president of the European Council was elected by the people of all EU member states. Indirect democracy isn't good enough for an institution that has as much power as the European Union.

      • Well, it's enough for Italy, UK, Spain, Japan, Chile, Perú, Argentina or México, countries that nobody would say are not democracies. In addition, the trump between European Union law and the EU member's law is because their own goverments allowed that posibility, as any other diplomatic agreement. It's true that European institutions are far away from the population, but I think it's too much by saying theres no democratic institution in Eu…

  13. With the questions you posed, you certainly eliminated the possibility of one word comments;-) I'm not even sure where to begin. In trying to decide the best model for its governance, I think the EU should be mindful of the United States experience. The US Constitution was developed in 1787 to try to unify 13 disparate colonies, all with their own interests. One compromise, as a result, was not to outlaw slavery because otherwise, the southern states would not agree to the federation. Less than 100 years later, we had a tremendously bloody Civil War which some, especially in the states that lost, are still bitter about. We have direct election for all federal legislators and for the presidency. In my lifetime (59 years), the country has never felt so fundamentally polarized. The latest move in one state is to try to pass a state law stating that the state legislators (in the state government) can nullify and not follow any federal laws to which they object. This is blatantly unconstitutional, but there are quite a few self-declared conservatives and libertarians who feel they have to "take our country back". One can only hope that this does not devolve into violence although its hard to imagine the US military doing what the Egyptian military did recently. Even though President Obama was elected and then re-elected, the opposing Republican party has managed to tie up many of the initiatives he campaigned on in the House of Representatives which they control and in the Senate where they can invoke a rule (the filibuster) that requires a super-majority of 60 votes (out of the possible 100). I would imagine that nation "state" interests in the EU will be even more polarizing and paralyzing. (And now I need something for my headache (and heartache) ).
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    • Good comparison, Suzanne. Politics in your county is frankly a joke at the moment. And what's worse, it has a negative impact on the whole world economy. Having said that so has the mess in the Euro zone. And it will definitely be much more difficult to make the diverse member states of the EU agree.

      • I just re-read my initial comment and I have to correct something. We do not, in fact, have direct elections for president in the USA. We have something called the electoral college which makes it possible for a person to win the most votes from individuals, but lose the presidency. This happened in 2000 when Al Gore received the most votes, but because of the way the electoral college divvies up the votes via the electoral college based on the states, GW Bush became president.
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        • Yes, Suzanne. That's a heritage from your founding father that can end up with the person that got most votes not being elected president. If I remember correctly it was Benjamin Franklin that came up with the idea in order to get the smaller states to agree to the way federal elections should be carried out.

  14. Nationalism and Globalization both are necessary but we should prefer nationalism first. Because we are losing our cultures and ideology. In many ways, nationalism is the foundation of modern society and social solidarity. It is often used by politicians to promote national unity and patriotism. But it is also often used to justify otherwise unacceptable behaviour. Overall, nationalism has caused as much grief as good.

    In the 21st century we are living in a world which is becoming 'smaller' in a sense with the fact we are becoming increasingly more interconnected through trade, commerce and comunication, where buisnesses operate on a global scale, where people can live and work in diffrent nations and where we exchange information instantaneously accross the web, globalisation then has taken off at a rapid rate.

    I just saw a cartoon. Welfare was Never Intended to be a career opportunity. In the US the government is not focusing on the problems at hand, but will get in elected in 2016. It would be nice if a politician actually kept a promise. Warren Buffet had a great idea for the US. All elected officials would get their benefits. Once they are out office the benefits cease to exist just like they do for everyone else. That would make a difference as the govwernment would not be spending so much time taking care of their own and boy would it free up a lot of money.
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    • Good points, Arleen. The problem of politicians getting their benefits even when they are no longer in office is global. Agree completely with Warren Bugget. Remember when Greece implemented severe austerity measures and at the same time their government increased benefits for themselves? That's a prime example of what to do in order to make people lose trust in a government.

  15. The EU is suffering from the same problems as the US Government. Too many small pieces, in the US it's towns, cities, counties, and states, that need to fit into a larger, cohesive unit at the Federal level. As we become a world where every decision made is scrutinized almost instantly our politicians, who in the end are just men and women like us, with hopes, dreams, fears and problems, have become weathervanes spinning in the wind rather than barometers gauging our needs.
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    • True, Kire. But what's worse in Europe is that the member states frequently have different cultures. But a way has to be found where politicians in governments spanning a whole continent, or even the world are held accountable. They can't just do whatever they want. If they do, we might as well have dicatorships of technocrats who, unlike many politicians, have knowledge of the issues at hand.

  16. Well we have almost fully transioned into the information age or whatever historians will call, what is clear is that the industrialitazion age is grasping for its last breaths. The old power are being replaced by new. The most sought after commodotiy is no longer credits but information. This information will ultimately be used for artificial or virtual intelligence. Machines that will help us colonize new worlds and extend life. Or it will be used against humanity to opress us. And who wouldbe the opressors government. We must stop voting for politician that are stuck in the last age. Those without visions, those that are want to censor, those scared of the internet. They are now the vast majority, and very very dangerous to us all.

    • Industrialization took place a long time ago in the West, Martin. But it is very much going on in the developing world i.e. where more than 80 percent of the world's population live.

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