ABC's of democracy
Ways and means of democratization
February 14, 2005
Would electoral reform make the political system
more democratic? The following is a discussion about the possible
the inherent limitations of the
following three approaches to improving governance: 1) professional training
for government employees; 2) organizational and managerial reform of government
agencies; and 3) electoral reform to make the political system more democratic.
If the first two approaches are lagging the third element would be ineffective.
The essential question that should invade the mind
of any citizen in a non-democratic society is the following: Would
electoral reform make the political system more
democratic? A more complex question is that what does it mean to govern? What
does a government do when it governs? It makes decisions, and implements and
enforces policies. They also produce services for the public and regulate actions.
Are all governments successful in doing the same routine?
In order to mass
produce these regulatory actions of government services, bureaucratic
methods have been the most effective approach. It means professional training
for government employees is not only essential but also crucial. Max Waber,
founder of modern sociology, invented the term "bureaucracy," meaning "rule
by the bureaus" and by the professional governmental staff. This is the
opposite of rule by monarchs, aristocrats or lords. The bureaucrats are civil
service staffers with divisions of responsibility. This way, the public knows
who is responsible for performing each type of job.
Governance is a consequence
of societal structures and cultures of accountability. Anti-corruption and
inherent dimensions of accountability that exist in social
institutions are where increasing governance and management happens simultaneously.
Bureaucratic accountability often contradicts feudal patronage. In bureaucratic
organizations, people are accountable to their superiors, where people usually
have fixed jobs that are clearly defined. Their responsibilities are known
to all. This contrasts sharply with a feudal patronage system or oligarchy,
the person hired at the top, has his loyal followers lower in the organization.
Subservient employees demonstrate their worth through their loyalty, not
Bureaucratic systems are defined by groups
of professionals, divisions of responsibility, routinized case
handling, case files and exceptions. The
inherent benefit of
such a system is described through its function. People are turned from
unique individuals into routine cases, via mass produced applications.
usually is absent while his/her file is worked on and passed on to different
departments. This routinized process is efficient and time saving. People
will get on with their work and not have to wait in long lines. Biases
are minimized when there is no physical contact between the agent and the
applicant. When governments are not mass producing these applications,
looked at one by one, in a manner tailored to each individual. The inherent
of non-bureaucratic agency is that it is time-consuming and expensive,
both for the applicant -- who has to pay bribes -- and for the
as a whole. This inefficiency paralyzes the entire system of development.
Adam Smith and his follower Milton Friedman believe
in the minimum socioeconomic function of government. The government's
be limited to rules
regarding property and contracts, the establishment of police and military,
and currency system maintenance. Smith and Friedman object to the government's
exercise of certain powers, such as market adjustment for positive and
negative externalities that would provide for public goods, basic education,
infrastructure. They also object to interference with natural monopolies
and to the public provision of aid to individuals who are helpless and
dependent. I believe we should have more government, not less. Otherwise,
you can not
have a humane society. Indeed, you can have economic growth and non-active
Effective governance as a system must follow certain
criteria for efficiency. This includes professionalization --
the ensuring of technical competency,
such as certified public accountants, licensed physicians, etc. Efficiency
multidimensional accountability, civil liberties unions to keep people
responsible for their actions, rules of law, and transparency. Transparent
those that can be understood readily by the public.
Accountable officials are divided into five categories, representing
a governmental system. The agency managers improve bureaucratization
monitor the system.
Elected authorities are the executive and legislative branch officials
who appoint managers and their staffs, ensuring smooth turnover and
is the public, which functions in two capacities. The public acts
as owners (elected leaders and the media, e.g.) and as clients
as NGOs). The fifth category is the strong professional associations,
with their membership standards and codes of ethics. The bureaucracy
accountability. The media is accountable for publicizing events,
and the market is accountable to consumers. The civil society groups
International, carefully watch governmental agencies. People try
to increase accountability through electoral democratic systems
NGOs and professional
groups, but these are only possible complementary sources.
world-wide constituencies demanding accountabilities, such as market
competition. This accountability is focused on people who
means that if people are not satisfied with certain services they
can get them elsewhere.
People who are serving clients are more accountable. This is how
choice is introduced, through market competition accountability.
monopolies, making education and other welfare programs available
and forcing governments to compete with semi-private agencies,
to serve the population. Whenever there is reform introducing these
elements into the
system, accountability will be improved dramatically.
To ensure that
these organizations function adequately and managerial reforms
of government agencies are in proper operation, they should
five elements to the rule of law. This is where a set of rules
should be known
There should be institutions to enforce these rules and institutions
to apply and interpret them. There should be existing institutions
Finally, there must be procedures to amend these rules. Once an
effective rule of law is in place, individuals and organizations
risks, make rational
decisions, and make investments. Usually, an underground informal
economy or black market will be the result in the absence of a
rule of law.
Electoral reform makes the political system more
democratic. A democratic political system is characterized as leadership
on the basis
and popularity, as measured by public support. The process of
be known to the public and should be open to public criticism.
The safety of members belonging to each party must be guaranteed.
and rated under political rights and civil liberty laws. It is
important to note that democracy is a learned experience. Children
grow up learn
reach consensus within the household and later on in the larger
society. Democracy teaches people to produce peaceful resolutions
The reason people
in democratic societies defend this mode of behavior is that
democracy gives us what we want. Democracy embodies ideals such
of expression and global equality, while meeting deeply felt
allows you to
of the larger society and decision-making that can affect your
life. It satisfies your need to be heard. Classical conditioning
to democratic roles. These patterns must be learned and must
remain in practice for at least three decades before a nation
the fruits of democracy.
The law fails when it can not create
harmony. It may prove incapable of responding in time to changes
taking place. The failure of
the lawmakers to anticipate
fundamental changes, and to incorporate those changes within
the nature of the legal tradition,
complicates the law's purpose, which is to preserve order and
do justice. The tension between the need for change and the
phenomenon which Third World societies, especially Iran's Islamic
theocratic regime, is struggling with in a New World Order.
Fatima Farideh Nejat holds a Bachelors degree in Interdisciplinary
Studies of Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology and Women's Studies;
and a Masters of Arts degree in International Training and Education
from the American University in Washington, DC. She served in
diplomatic corps of Iran working at the Iranian Embassy in Washington,
DC, from 1970-80. She is currently Assistant Professor at the
Department of the Army, Defense Language Institute in Monterey,
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