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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Good Government Principles

As a newly elected member of the Hudson County semi-organization of DFA, I told everyone that I would be posting some principles for good government to start some discussion. Anyone who likes can comment, not just people from Hudson County.

This post is a LOT longer than most of them.

It is necessary to begin by specifying what we are fighting for. Everything we do should be tied to our primary values and they should be our guide as we determine in what direction to move and in what manner to act. This will provide us a solid ground upon which to stand; a meaningful base upon which to draw support; and a moral platform upon which to build a vision of our future.

Principal #1 - Good government is honest. It does not resort to trickery and gimmicks to hoodwink citizens into supporting its policies, nor does it seek to buy support through abuse of privilege, position, or power. It identifies areas of concern and develops a course of action. If it appears unpopular, good government educates and listens to the fears, grievances, and concerns of its citizens. It commits itself to solving problems through consensus rather than steamrolling opposition.

Principal #2 - Good government operates in the open. It does not seek to hide itself from public scrutiny but welcomes input from all citizens. An honest government has nothing to fear from operating openly before the eyes of the full community. In cases where some secrecy is necessary, only the minimum necessary to complete the task at hand is tolerated and only for the minimum time necessary to do so. In all cases, balancing arms of government should be created to provide oversight and prevent abuse of power.

Principal #3 - Good government listens to all citizens and is responsive to their aggregate needs, desires, and hopes. It respects the right of citizens, individually and collectively, to express dissenting opinions in any manner that is not inconsistent with community safety and health. Every citizen has a right to challenge official actions and to receive a full explanation of the reasons behind those actions. Since it gains its power from the people, the only way it can remain legitimate is by respecting the people it is created to serve.

Principle #4 - Good government is economically and environmentally sustainable. It does not rely on non-recurring revenues to fund permanent projects or services. It does not seek to impoverish nor unduly enrich its citizens. It seeks to provide an atmosphere of opportunity where those who wish to do so may overcome whatever obstacles lie in their path and where those who do so may freely retain the fruits of their labor. It seeks to create an atmosphere of abundance by promoting policy that create enough honest wealth to lift all who stand ready to take the personal responsibility and do the hard work necessary to attain that goal. It taxes only the minimum necessary to provide the services and protections needed to create such an atmosphere and it ensures that the ability to tax does not descend into the ability to destroy.

Principle #5 - Good government is a zealous guardian of human dignity and harbors no inherent inequality in the rights of any citizen. It does not tolerate nepotism, profiteering, or officials with conflicting interests. It abhors favoritism on any grounds but merit. While wealth may buy a bigger house or brighter car, good government holds that it cannot buy a louder voice in the community decisions. The poorest pauper is no better and no worse than the richest magnate when addressing the government or speaking to citizens. It takes affirmative action to defend those who are unable to do so themselves. It takes negative action against those who would abuse or disenfranchise their neighbors. It builds community by providing a means for diverse interests to meet in an open forum dedicated to improving the public and private spheres.

Principle #6 - Good government guards the public interest and upholds the public trust. It never allows the personal interests of officials to presume upon the best aggregate interests of the community. It requires that all officials declare publicly any conflicts of interests that might interfere with the completion of their duties but guards their right to privacy in such matters as do not. It understands that every citizen entrusts it with the authority to carry out necessary actions and provided needed services for the benefit of all, with no respect paid to any characteristic other than they are a member of our community.

Principal #7 - Good government is responsive, pro-active, and reality-based. Because of the above principals, it cannot help but take seriously any and all concerns of its citizens. It realizes that failure to do so results in a de facto loss of legitimacy and is an abuse of power in itself. When citizens’ interests are found to be properly and best addressed by public action, it responds quickly and without undue delay. It seeks out potential problems before they become crises and invites public discussion on the best course of action. It does not deny private interests and seeks to protect them when there is legitimate concern that official actions may infringe upon the liberty of its citizens. It evaluates all issues before it and makes decisions based on the best possible advice and through the consent of citizens. It creates specific verifiable and quantifiable goals for actions before taking them. It ensures that all actions taken have a direct bearing on the goal for which they were designed. When periodic evaluations discover a discrepancy between goals and progress, it does not fail to consider alternatives and enact them when it appears they will better accomplish the goals of the program.

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