What’s the future of government?

future 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. How can, for instance, governments in the Middle East live up to the expectations of their citizens? Or will elected officials in the United states and Europe be able to satisfy their electorates? Will anything short of delivering what’s expected be accepted? Considering that extremists of all kinds are getting increasingly popular on a global scale is it time to make sure governments address the widening gap between rich and poor? If they don’t, democracy will suffer, as it already is in countries where extremists hold the balance of power. Or worse, are in power.

America is still the only superpower. An interesting article in The Washington Post looks at if it’s time to redefine US politics like Reagan did thirty years ago. Needless to say the direction today has to be very different since the young are against the system that Reagan implemented. What’s interesting is that if US politics are redefined it will have an impact on the world and the world economy. After writing this I came across another article by David Ignatius in the same paper that states: “We’re grappling with the same issue facing all advanced economies — how to revive growth and distribute its fruits more fairly. A United States that can tackle that problem head-on can perhaps help revive a stagnant global economy”.

Globalisation or nationalism?

Another 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 have 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? Or politicians, generally speaking? 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? 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? Is it time for the world to redefine how politics works? If not, will democracy suffer? In short, what do you think politicians need to do in order to regain confidence? 

Video: The World Economic Forum – Picture: Alex Hanson

74 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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  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.

  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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  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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  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.

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

  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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  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.

  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.

  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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  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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  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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  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.

  17. Satisfied how my local is run. Not satisfied how the state is run. And have a few issues with the federal government as well. Should politics be redefined? I believe, to some degree. I feel that each levels need to be responsible and receptive to the citizens. The local and state should be more involved than the federal. All need to recognize truly that they need to be available to the people they represent.

  18. Catarina, this is not a good time to ask me about government leadership. We have at this time a Federal leader without the knowledge or intelligence to run a country and who is being manipulated by backseat boys and courted by Hollywood.
    We also have a Provincial leader and her gang who are working very hard to drive our province into bankruptcy and to increase homelessness and child poverty.
    Unfortunately, we do need someone in charge – I just wish that the people who vote for these characters would do some homework before voting.

    .

  19. How I wish the gap between the rich and poor would close in the UK and other countries. It is painful to know the basic needs of some are not being met. Here in the UK, many families are turning to food banks as their salaries are just not stretching. London house prices are increasing daily, yet the poorest cannot afford to move out and spend hundreds on commuting fares. Not to mention people starving in developing countries………..

  20. The three most important questions in decision making are: Who decides? Who is accountable? What happens if fails? Answer these questions and I can easily tell you how free, authoritarian or totalitarian a society is; how dynamic and innovative is its economy; and how corrupt is its political system. Ronald Reagan believed that political systems should minimally interfere with people’s decisions because they are ultimately accountable and are best positioned to adapt when outcomes don’t meet expectations. By contrast, Mr. Sanders and many in national and international governance believe that they or their brethren should (1) make consequential decisions on behalf of those less capable and deserving, (2) be largely insulated from accountability and, if things go wrong, (3) be forgiven for having good intentions.

    James Madison, the architect of America’s democracy, defined the challenge of framing a government as follows: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” The 20th century illustrated more than any other what happens when governments aren’t “obliged to control themselves.” Those promoting Mr. Sanders’ and similar schemes frequently forget that.

  21. Some really interesting questions. One of the issues that comes to mind initally is how well do most governments keep pace with technology? There are so many ways that technology offers the promise of potentially being able to govern better but I suspect many of our governments lag behind the private sector in utilizing it. In the U.S. it is probably more likely for civic tech to be utilized in a meaningful way on a local basis rather than nationally. There is an overall trend in government in the U.S. toward austerity. Sometimes that has disastrous consequences like poisoning the water supply of the city of Flint , Mich. But it also keeps us from reaping the benefits of technology. For example, in the video one of the speakers made reference to high speed trains in C\hina while the image in the background was a Los Angeles traffic jam. But the impediment to developing a high speed rail network here is not the lack of transfer of knowledge as implied but rather the US. government's woeful neglect of our transportation infrastructure..

  22. Catarina I think in the USA we are beyond corrupt government. Some of these gangster politicians act like they were elected to line their pockets in gold, while the rest of us suffer. They exempt themselves to many of the laws every day citizens are under and get penalized with often enough. Not sure what will happen in the current election cycle although many are hopeful, on any side of politics and any beliefs, that we the citizens really have had enough. I've been chanting with the crowds for years, "Vote the bums out," and we'll see if we cave or not in the end. In my opinion, I don't see the USA as THE superpower any longer. I've had several friends (about 6 and counting) across the world state that belief to me. SIgh.
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  23. HUGE topic Catarina! I am not embarrassed to admit I'm a proud-out-loud American, and yet I am all too aware of my country's shortcomings. There are as many things in our history to be ashamed of as there are to be proud of. I do believe it is time for serious change, we can't keep limping along as we have been. Like him or hate him, there is no question that Donald Trump has spurred more Americans than ever to open up and get involved in the election process, and I'm hopeful that will translate into a record voter turn out this year.

    Personally, I'm a grass roots kinda gal. I believe for most of us real change happens on the community level and grows out from there, so that's where I'm focusing my efforts to make a difference. Thanks for always challenging us to think about the big picture!
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  24. I'm happy to say that I'm pleased with my current government. My sentiment comes largely from the fact that they are new and their ears seem to be open more often than their mouths. We will see what time brings. As a lobbyist, bringing examples from other countries was a regular part of how I presented solutions, we can all learn from one another, our governments are no exception.

  25. Interesting points that your post brings up.
    Should a larger union, override the wishes of a government? In the US, the conflict is on states rights vs the national interests. I could not imagine a larger block of countries trying to influence the US, while still dealing with state and local governments.
    I do also agree, why should people who are not elected dictate to others. This is the opposite of democracy.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  26. With governmen any form of government there are good things and bad. And lots of issues that need to be addressed. The thought in the US with these elections seems to be we need to clean house, get rid of the career politicians and vote in a political outsider as president. Things need to change but not sure that is the solution everyone is seeking and hoping for. I think we may be in for a big surprise. Be careful what you wish for as they say.

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