Public governance and the ideal of government for the people

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In this chapter I argue that, compared to universal suffrage and free elections, other public governance mechanisms such as the rule of law (implying separation of powers), a free press, an independent anti-graft body, and various conflict of interest avoidance mechanisms are even more important. With free and open elections, assuming they are effectively and fairly carried out, we can replace an ineffective, abusive, or corrupt government, but we cannot ensure that the next government would not be equally ineffective, abusive, or corrupt. With sound public governance mechanisms, on the other hand, we can prevent politicians and other public officials from abusing their power when they are in public office. Quite counter to intuition, if effective public governance mechanisms are in place, multi-party politics in the traditional sense of the term might even become unnecessary. If the “ruling party” and “opposition parties” are both subject to effective governance mechanisms to prevent them from self-aggrandizing actions, they would be united in the mission of finding the best policies for the country. The distinction between parties would become more and more blurred, as what divides them is not a fundamental conflict of interests, but a difference in the prescription of what is the best for the country.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic governance in Asia and the limits of electoral democracy
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781848446281
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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