Monday, March 20, 2006


A truism to begin with: governments are bound to fail.

In the interest of sanity, any huge organisation that has too many owners (aka citizens) is best run by elected representatives. These representatives are given a free reign till the next time the elections are conducted. Can we expect these people to work for the benefit of the owners? What is the incentive for them to do so? Fear of losing this blank cheque for the next five years. So the reps have the incentive to do the bare minimum that is required of them - if they are to retain power for the next five years. Seems obvious? Read this para again - only this time, think of a private organisation with thousands of shareholders, and not the government.

How are the two any different?

1. In a private company, the mandate for the elected reps is clear. Profit motive. In government, there is no clear mandate.

2. Private companies are required to divulge performance metrics regularly to their many owners.

3. Government is a monopoly. Private companies are not always so.

4. Universal adult franchise divides the voting powers equally amongst all the owners. In most private companies, certain individuals or institutions have a sizeable share of the company and hence enjoy more than their proportionate share of power.

So what kind of a democracy would be better than one that is simply run by regularly elected representatives? Would it be safe to say that one that addresses the issues raised above will be better?

Except for the last point, the rest seem to provide pointers on how democracies can be better structured. The third point is a structural assumption. The other two points can actually be addressed in a significant manner. It requires active participation of the civil society in a government's functioning. The media and public protests served as a good medium for this. But for a few months now, there is a different weapon for the society to use - the Right to Information Act. It enables greater transparency - and specifically helps highlighting the government's progress in particular areas and thus provides a stick to define the gov's mandate.

The next time you crib about anything in the government, STFU. The RTI Act implicates you in every (in)action of the gov unless you speak out. If you feel strongly enough on any issue reg the gov, all you need is less than 1 hour of your time and Rs. 50. If you're not willing to spend that, then you may just shut up.

4 Value-adds:

Blogger madatadam said...

if we think of govt's ends as the control and regularization over all spheres of life in a country, the idea of checks and balances makes sure govt is not a monopoly. the economic, judicial, legislative spheres and others too are each controlled by independent entities. and the equal votes idea is only true for the legislative arm of the govt and the idea of non-equitable stakeholders is reflected in 'votebanks', however vulgar it may sound. also, the judiciary itself and ppl connected with it, the media etc possess more control and influence over the publicly-elected MPs. the clear motive as far as the MPs are concerned is to please their respective votebanks and they exercise it the same way CEOs please their Board members or majority stakeholders.

completely agree abt the last part on the RTI though info abt itself is not as widely known as it ought to be.

March 20, 2006 12:38 PM  
Blogger eV said...

Madatadam: I'm not sure what you mean when you say that not much is known of RTI itself. I was quite pleasantly surprised by the extent of information available on the internet. But if you're talking of the aam aadmi knowing how to use it etc, I suppose you do have a point.

March 21, 2006 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not related to the post-
I have been visiting your blog, recently and like to read it. Background color causes a lot of pain to the eyes. Dont know if others feel the sam way.

March 26, 2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger eV said...

Anon: I like my template very much. I wouldn't want to change it. You might want to subscribe to the RSS feed of my blog - that way, you can read my posts without having to endure my evil template. :)

April 01, 2006 12:53 AM  

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