Today's Question to Guide the Design of Governance Indicators: Which Outcomes Should Government Be Engaged in? I'm back in Boston and into thinking about governance, governance indicators and outcomes. I have replied to a couple of great conments on past posts--thanks to those who are engaging so thoughtfully.
Today's Question to Guide the Design of Governance Indicators: Which Outcomes Should Government Be Engaged in?
I'm back in Boston and into thinking about governance, governance indicators and outcomes. I have replied to a couple of great conments on past posts--thanks to those who are engaging so thoughtfully.
One of the comments, by the ever-sharp Clay Wescott, suggested that we need a step by step approach to connecting governance indicators to outcomes. I agree. I think my starting step is even earlier than what Clay proposes, however. I think we need to start by asking what outcomes we have in mind when we think about governance. Given we are thinking about governments in particular, the question I ask is: What outcomes do citizens commonly authorize governments to help facilitate?
This question emerges from the assumption that principals delegate authority to agents in order to achieve outcomes. Mirroring basic theories of public finance, I argue that citizens delegate authority to governments when faced with restrictive costs or complicated problems of cooperation and coordination. I could extend my perspective to sociological theory on the state, agreeing that sometimes citizens give governments authority because they beleive it is appropriate to do so (regardless of the presence of cost or coordination-type problems).
I am arguing that citizens are still looking for outcomes in return for the delegated authority, however, no matter why they give such. Further, the quality of public sector governance is reflected in whether public organizations exercise authority in a way that facilitates outcome and value production.
This does not mean that the governments produce services directly. They could regulate a sector. They could subsidize a sector. Etc etc.
Given such thinking, I suggest that public sector governance indicators should focus on domains where most would agree that citizens accord governments authority to influence outcomes. This could include “public goods” interpreted narrowly (such as defense) and more broadly (maybe the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)). I wonder what areas quickly come to mind: Perhaps macroeconomic management, policing and defense, education, health care, and environmental protection.
I would love to see a top 5 from readers. What outcomes do we think governments around the globe are authorized to facilitate?
I think the question is important and takes us from dominant approaches to governance that have assumed that 'small' or 'limited' governance makes sense--regardless of country or outcome being considered. It calls us into the debate on the functional role of government--not necessarily its form.
As an example, in the coming weeks I will be discussing an area in which governments are always involved--child health--and an indicator that cannot be achieved without the enaggement of governments--child survival to five years old. What other examples would you like to explore?