Form follows function


Photo attribution below

I suggested in my first post that the UK’s system of government is not fit for purpose. I think it no longer really does what it’s supposed to do. So, if I’m right, how do we change it?

Simply voting in another government won’t change the system, of course. If the people change but the system remains the same, nothing signfiicant has changed. 

As I pointed out in a comment on the first post, the usual means of introducing changes to the government system is to place one or more eminent and suitably experienced people in a room together – retired judges or Civil Sevice mandarins, for exmaple – and to ask them to use their great brains to consider the difficult questions and come up with an answer. But I think we need something a little more organised than this.

If we want to introduce genuine, systemic change – a series of changes to the system of government – we need to design those changes in an organised and coherent way. Any design activity involves:

  • agreeing a clear statement of what you want the thing you’re designing to do;
  • working out the best possible way of achieving the what – or in other words, some hows – given any known constraints.

As we’re dealing with a system here – by which I mean a set of interacting parts which work together to do something – it’s important that our ‘hows’ work together with one another as efficiently as possible.

I’m bothering to say all this partly because it’s essential to have a process if you’re going to change or design anything. But I also I think that one of the fundamental problems with our current system of government is that it really doesn’t do the job of ‘design’ very well. In fact, quite the opposite but I’ll return to that in another post. In the next post I want to look at some of the purposes – the whats – of the government system.  

Photo: Pavilion by R Buckminster Fuller by Mathew Burpee  Used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-Alike 2.0 license.


6 thoughts on “Form follows function

  1. I agree we need urgent change to our political system, and this isn’t just in the UK it needs to be across all the western "democracies" that have followed the failed "free-market" monetarism policies which reward the 1% at the expense of the 99% left further and further behind in real terms.For real change to take place, we need a real change within the population – a change to our fundamental values and priorities. We need to feel collectively included in society we want to live in, and have real and meaningful ways to influence decision-makers. Ideally at a local level.Firstly, we need to consider what are our priorities, what are our core values

  2. "….we need real change within the population – " True ,but people do not even recognise the existence of systems of oppression and domination. That is the first hurdle. Furthermore those in power fear democracy and will oppose it. Here’s a thought from Henry David Thoureau, " That government is the best that governs the least or doesn’t govern aut all."Regards

  3. Re. values, John, it seems to me that there are lots of different ways in which they’re relevant to improving the government machine. For example, we need a system of government which ensures that politicians are honest, which holds politicians properly to account and (probably) which doesn’t allow one section of society or interest group to dominate the others and work in its own interests. I think ll these things are connected with values, so far as the system is concerned. I’d like to treat them as ‘whats’ – things that the government machine must do/ensure are done, so we can look at the best ways of achieving them. I also think some values form the basis of political party’s platforms and would continue to do so however the machine is changed. For example, ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’ could be seen as a value (could it?) but not everyone would agree with a political programme based around this idea, to say the least!So I’m saying that some values are relevant to redesigning the political system, others remain the territory of politicians: does that make sense?

  4. Re. oppression/domination, Duncan, I have no idea what people do or don’t understand about how we’re governed but I am pretty sure that i. we need some form of government to organise/facilitate things like transport, health, education, housing and taxation. I’m also convinced that without governments, private sector organisations/capitalism would act purely in their own interests. At the very least, unless governments acted to prevent monopolies forming we’d end up with most areas of commercial activity being dominated by one or two businesses.My interest is in finding ways of changing the existing system to make it more accountable. The coalition government is, in my view, currently pursuing a radical ideology-driven agenda under the cover of the financial crisis and we have no way of stopping them until 2015, but which time untold damage could be done. As I say, it’s broke so we need to fix it.

  5. Obsolutly agree we need a new class of politicians who are honest and ethical, and any system has to ensure that, where human nature leads to less than ideal behaviour, there are adequate checks and balances to ensure one section of society, or interest group does not have undue influence. Perhaps a truly independent standards committe to oversea MPs, made up of judges, senior police etc might work, however, the recent News International scandal has shown that corruption is endemic throughout the ruling classes, so would this system be any improvement without a fundamental shift in attitudes or "core value" changes to what is expected of politicians, and senior public servants….?

  6. Agree "…we need some form of government to organise",but does this have to be central government in every case ?I Many things can be done locally more efficiently and democratically.Also your conviction that without governments the private sector / capitalism would act in it’s own interest is true, but this is the case with or without government. It is the capitalist system that is at the root of the problems we now face.We not only need a new system but a totally new ethos, as mentioned by johnellison above. Politicians must be accountable to the people and take their mandate from the people. The Swiss system is probably the most democratic system in existence today. The danger is in having any form of ruling class be they judges public servants or politicians, they will always look after their own interests.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s