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Time For A Referendum on Governance

referendum on governance

If there was ever a time to put “None of the Above” on the ballot, this is it. Seriously, it’s time to conduct a referendum on governance.

I freely admit that I have spent way too much time watching and reading news over the past few months. I have always been interested in public policy and political science. But what’s going on now is a truly low point in my life.

Governor Cuomo of New York speculated recently that the U.S. election this fall would be a referendum on government performance. Actually, he stumbled as he was trying to say this and said “referendum on governance” before correcting himself. I think he may have had it right the first time. All of our elections now are referendums on governance.

So, what’s the difference? I see it this way. Government is a thing that we live with. Every few years we cast a ballot according to the (meager) choices we are given. Then, we hope for good outcomes. Recently, our choices and outcomes have left lots to be desired.

On the other hand, I see governance as the process through which we organize to make decisions. We use governance to create and maintain stable practices and relationships. While we individually are not part of government, we must be part of and central to good governance.

And this is what I mean by each election being a referendum on governance. We keep voting for the same clowns and parties over and over and expecting different outcomes. Einstein called this insanity. When we hold a referendum on governance, we are simply looking in the mirror. But, how can we actually achieve better governance through government processes that continuously fail us?

Referendum on Governance – Some Paths Forward

I believe that the hardest place to achieve good governance is, well, modern government. Representative democracy is dominated by political parties, whose only purpose is simply to maintain their existence. Political parties have many easier, cheaper, faster ways of getting re-elected than providing good governance. Only we the people can achieve good governance for ourselves. Remember 1776?

In the United States, and short of another revolution, a good governance leader could come to power by taking over a political party, and achieving the Presidency and some degree of party control in Congress. This is exactly what Trump did, successfully, in 2016. Too bad he wasn’t a good governance leader. So, maybe now in 2020, Andrew Cuomo can take over the Democratic party and find a positive answer to the referendum on governance. (The alternative is an endless war of tweets and lies between two useless political parties.)

Here in Canada and United Kingdom, I am not sure what path we should take. Boris made the “takeover the party” tactic work a few years ago, so I guess that is an option. Canada is such a large, diverse country with different interests that we can’t seem to agree on much of anything, let alone good governance. I’ll keep thinking about this.

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