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Eureka: How do governments work?
by Jay Gutman
2017-01-02 10:47:12
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The executive works with planning, budgets and a calendar. The legislative votes budgets and the rules of business, society, politics, the environment or the military. The independent judiciary makes sure laws do not contradict fundamental laws of governance and implements the law. In some countries, the executive can legislate instead of the assembly. That’s mostly how it plays out.

The executive:

A King, President, Prime Minister or Governor is chosen or elected to select a team of cabinet members who will lead government organizations, called ministries or departments, who will run different public budgets for military, environmental, political, social and economic policy in the public sphere. That is the leader will usually decide what areas of public policy need separate departments, the departments will formulate their plans and apply for budgets, and the legislative will vote the overall budget.

Ministries are then allocated budgets and spread the money around public schools, public hospitals, public transportation infrastructure, public housing, public banks, public social welfare agencies and so on.

In most countries, the presidency or highest office is the one dealing with “sensitive issues” while the different ministries distribute the budgets around those who apply for them or are entitled to them. Sensitive has a broad meaning, but broadly means the highest office deals with threats that could destabilize the normal functioning of government.

gover01_400The legislative:

Sets up laws in both public and private spheres of the military, the environment, politics, society and the economy. An important part of what assemblies do is decide which public agencies will get how much as part of the budget, another important part of what they do is connect with everyday people and organizations and try to see what laws are hindering private lives or private businesses, or what laws could fix a broken aspect of society or business. It usually takes the private sphere several years or arguing and negotiating before legislators finally decide to vote laws on such aspects.

The judiciary: 

Makes sure that laws are being followed, being correctly interpreted and that laws being voted do not contradict the basic principles or constitution of the country. Higher courts, courts of appeals and other courts either clarify the law or implement laws when laws are not being followed.

The challenges governments face today

Information  overload means that a once two-dimensional political sphere where people either debated in town halls or via the press has now been replaced by four-dimensional debates with all kinds of online and offline platforms. People are finding out that laws exist they had no idea existed, that some laws are outdated and that some laws that were never really implemented are starting to be implemented. Furthermore in the old days the government would just wire the budget to agencies who more or less had autonomy regarding how they could use the budget, but now demand accountability for the money spent in increasingly complex ways.

To give an example, one of the organizations I worked for used to offer financial support for researchers, small grants worth a few hundred dollars. In the old days researchers would be given the grant and simply be asked to present their findings. These days, the organization also asks for receipts and for comments on how the money was spent, which is a hindrance because research money is not always spent on material things, a lot of it is spent on something unquantifiable called “effort.”

The increasing bureaucratization and complexity of laws and organizations means government agencies are having more accountability work to get done leading to less time to be efficient on the ground. Let’s take public school teachers for example. In the old days they would teach their class and go home, where they had plenty of time to think about the next day’s lesson plans. Now schools want teachers to be accountable, meaning teachers are spending more time filling out paperwork and less time actually planning lessons.

The government’s biggest challenge this year and this century will be to find a realistic balance between accountability and efficiency. If you focus too much on accountability, you could lose sight of efficiency.   

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Emanuel Paparella2017-01-02 14:41:00
The Necessary Other Side of the Coin:

In theory one can reduce even a complex polity such as a Constitution Government with its checks and balances to its least common denominators, and then insure that those parts work together like a well oiled machine, for the common good, of course.

But then there is the other side of the coin: how do Republics work in practice? Let’s take the Roman Republic represented in the illustration of the Roman senate in the above piece piece. Did it always work efficiently?

The other side of the picture may best be rendered by the other two pieces accompanying this one in today’s edition of Ovi: one on the glories of capitalism and the other on neutrality. Perhaps that’s the best that a publication of opinion can do: publish both sides and hope for the best. perhaps.

One hopes, however, that average readers do not get the illusory impression that any opinion is as good and valid as any other, or that any solution will do, as long as it is "modern" and "scientific." For, to present one side only, begin with false premises based on ignorance of history and logical premises, is to insure that one arrives at an incomplete picture and a pseudo-solution, or worse.

Most positivists and reductionists, alas, are deaf and well injured to such a statement, they may even believe it retrograde, or they will simply ignore it. All the more reason why it is left to editors to stay alert to what is published in their journals on a daily basis and as a steady diet, for it remains true that not all opinions have equal merit.

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