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Featured Question - November 17, 2003

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What applications would Policy Governance have to political systems in the US?


Policy Governance has already been proven to be an effective model for defining the relationship between a governing body and its executive.  Obviously, how the model is applied differs based on the political structure, such as city, county, state, and national.  Examples of this relationship have been well illustrated in The Policy Governance Fieldbook, edited by Caroline Oliver.  However, Policy Governance could be applied to the relationship between citizens and their government.

The logic of the application of Policy Governance to citizen-government relationship is pretty simple.  The challenge of tradition and the priority placed on electing representatives for the voters is a significant hurdle.  The major change in the system would be that voters would determine Ends, and that elected representatives would be responsible to ensure that those Ends are accomplished.  Although more complicated, there is nothing that suggests that voters couldn't speak to Limitation on Means, leaving any further clarification to the elected representatives. 

This would not only mean a revamping of the political process to create a structure that would allow for voters to have a voice in Ends and Means, but a significant investment in the education of citizens about how the process would function and their role within it.  The process would have to account for a way to develop and present Ends as well as Means, one in which there is enough understanding for voters to make informed choices. Political parties would have to be about issues, and candidates would have to be willing to follow the wishes of the voters.  This too would be a significant change.

One concern might be that Ends might be focused only at the majority, with minority groups being left out.  The current political system is as likely to do this because the majority can elect representatives that reflect their wishes.  In terms of protecting minority groups, Limitations on Means is more effective than the current system.  Limitations can better assure that adequate levels of results are achieved for everyone. 

Policy Governance could give voters a much bigger and clearer voice in determining their own destiny.  It has the potential to move the political system closer to true democracy, but this change is not likely to come quickly or easily.

Lynn A. Walker, Ph.D.
Boundary Management Consulting

12411 McKelvey Road
St. Louis MO 63146-2929

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