Governance & Accountability in Politics

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  • 0:01 What Are Governance &…
  • 0:55 Achieving Balance
  • 1:37 Good Governance
  • 2:38 Providing Accountability
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Do you like rules? Probably not. Sometimes it seems that there are too many to follow. But you expect others to follow the rules, right? In this lesson, we'll look at the core ideas behind those themes of governance and accountability.

What Are Governance and Accountability?

Have you ever played basketball? Chances are you play a very different game when you have officials than when you don't have officials. I'm not going to accuse you of playing dirty, but I'd say you watch those fouls a little bit better when the officials are around. And what happens when you get called for a foul you didn't commit? Chances are you argue, probably a little bit more than you should. Sure, your coach may tell you to let it slide, but if the official keeps calling a really bad game, chances are he won't be invited back to officiate again.

People living under the rule of governments see things in a pretty similar way. As citizens of a society, we give up some of our rights to achieve fairness. The practice of officiating society is known as governance. However, the practice of being able to fire bad officials or depose bad governments is called accountability.

Achieving Balance or Letting Them Play

This idea of balancing government and balancing accountability is not a new concept, relatively speaking. However, it was only in the last few hundred years that the basic idea was laid down. Before then, rulers justified their right to rule through religion, wealth, or the convenience of having hundreds of heavily armed men.

However, that began to change with the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of On the Social Contract. He stated that governments must have the permission of the people to rule. Likewise, people have to agree to be governed. However, if people are not being governed well, the people have the right to get rid of the government. This agreement is known as the social contract.

Good Governance or Fair Officials

Back to our basketball game. Like I said, you have probably played without an official before. And chances are you fouled more than you should have. Okay, fine, you may not have, but someone playing the game may have. That is analogous to all the chaos and crime that comes from not having a government.

Some people may choose to argue here that the game is completely able to continue without the oversight of governance, but that's for a different lesson. The matter at hand is that the game being played with officials is quite different from the one without them. On the whole, people tend to prefer having officials. There's a reason that the professional leagues all have them, even if we do occasionally accuse them of being blind and making bad calls.

However, all in all, decent officials tend to do a decent job, just like legitimate governments tend to do a decent job. I did say 'decent' for both of those instances because there are exceptions, and in those cases, there has to be some way of providing accountability.

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