PRESENT AND VOTING

Why Do Governments Fail to Provide for Their People?

Very commonly, throughout almost all the countries in the world, some people think that the government will not work to protect their best interests. It would be nothing special if people thought this way rarely, for some specific cases, yet this is not the case. It is not at all uncommon for people to assume that no action of their own governments will bring benefit to the common folk. Some will even go so far as to claim that the government is inherently harmful to the general populace. But is it not the point of the government to be helpful to the people? And if it is, then why are so many people skeptical about the government?

In essence, a government is an organization created by a group of people to assist in the governing of those people and their properties. Usually, it is the most powerful organization within specific borders, but some forms of practice almost always exist to keep this power in check. It can be said that “of the people, by the people, for the people” is an apt way of describing all governments, at least at a conceptual level. Yet, this organization, created solely for the purpose of benefiting the people, which people are taught to love and protect from the earliest possible age, is under significant doubt and scrutiny from the very same people.

Surely, then, this must reflect either a sub-par level of competence or some degree of selfish malevolence by those who run the government. The group of people who run the government is, naturally, a very small percentage of the overall population. Even if you count in all public workers, they will still most likely be a minority group. The below map illustrates this point.  

by Boran GÖHER

The point is that a small percentage of people are in direct control of the most powerful organization in the country. Unless one lives in a direct democracy, it is not possible to directly influence government decisions. The most one can usually do is to elect a like-minded representative and hope for the best.

This situation, in turn, creates an environment where the people on top are more able to misuse their powers for their own benefit. In other words, the common structure of a small number of people controlling a great amount of power leads to corruption. Still, as stated before, most countries have systems in place to prevent the fall of those at the top of corruption. And as with all governmental systems, these, too, seem to work the best in Western countries. The experts and citizens of these countries report much less corruption than others. The following is a world map of reported corruption levels across the world.

Western countries seem to be less corrupt across the board. This can be taken to mean that their governments are better at fulfilling their primary role of benefiting the people. Then, one might expect that the people in those countries be the most supportive of their governments. But the data does not directly reflect that. Or at least, the following OECD study does not.

One can immediately recognize that some of the most corrupt countries are very high in the confidence ranking. Recalling the beginning of this article, most governments try to imbue citizens with feelings of love and respect towards the state. In the West, this tactic is less effective, meaning that confidence in the government is much more closely related to competence and lack of corruption. Thus, governments in the West have higher bars to clear in supporting their people. If they have proper and working systems in place to care for and protect their people, then they have high confidence ratings, else they are not trusted very much. And even in good times, people are still very much wary of the government.

Compare and contrast to less developed countries where governments seem to have more leeway for corruption in the eyes of people and in the general working of the country. So, the governments indeed do care for the people when they can be held accountable for their actions. This benefits first-world countries more as they have stronger accountability, which is why their people often seem to be cared for and protected, more so than in other countries.

So, should not the governments care for and protect their people? They absolutely should. But what incentives the high-ranking people in governments is how accountable they are. If a government is not beneficial to the people in a country where accountability is high for government officials, it will be forced to change, or it will be replaced. This cycle will eventually yield a satisfactory result for the common folk. However, if government officials are not held responsible, they will not change their ways, nor will the government get replaced. In such a country, corruption and incompetence cause the pooled resources to flow the wrong way as rich lobbyists and government officials use the country’s wealth in an unjust manner for their own gains. So, should not the governments care for and protect their people? They absolutely should. Then, why will they not? Because of flawed democracies, poorly informed, gullible people, and the greed of those in the top. Still, is there hope? Yes. All societies eventually move towards better systems and standards of living as time passes. It is only a question of whether said society can survive until they evolve to a satisfactory degree. But, even if one society dies out, those taking its place will eventually move towards a better future. Such is the course of human history. Thus, the government of the future will be much better at providing for their people, or so we do hope.

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