Welcome to Competitive Government
Competitive Government is the new philosophy of government. It provides the framework for reform and continual renewal that government otherwise lacks.
Government has a unique position in every society, but it is this primary role that makes it extremely vulnerable to under-performance. Governments suffer from the failings of monopoly and, for various reasons, the regulatory functions that legislatures should perform, are insufficient to overcome the consequences.
As a result countries get stuck with policies and programs that are outdated and inefficient. Society moves on but government far from leading, falls further and further behind. The power of government is diminished and dissipated, its resources and potential wasted, the opportunities for progress lost. Improving the performance of government is the “elephant in the room” when it comes to tackling the issues of national decline, and seeking ways to generate new prosperity and economic growth
The fundamental challenge is making sure that all government programs are as effective as possible in realizing their objectives. This can only be achieved by comparing, contrasting and learning from the best practices of other governments and corporations. Maximizing value is at the heart of competitive government. Identifying, assessing and delivering are crucial elements. Successful governments focus on where they can best add or leverage the most value to their countries.
Chris is the global expert in Competitive Government.
A passionate believer in the benefits of good government, he has worked in government at all levels, seeing its problems and opportunities from different perspectives.
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- PROLOGUE -
Competitive Government is a small book about a big idea.
Few would associate the words competitive and government, yet most want their government to be excellent. The question is how to achieve it? The premise behind this book is that governments fail because they lack a mechanism to ensure they succeed. This is competitive government; it is the new philosophy of government.
Over the centuries, much has been written about the nature of government, who should run it, and to whom it should be accountable. Very little thought has been given to ensuring that it operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. Government has inexorably expanded, acquiring new responsibilities and commitments, without any idea how to guarantee its policies and programs give the best value for money on a continuing basis.
The result is that government is underperforming. The vigor and dynamism of previous decades has been replaced by torpor and paralysis. Instead of advancing, in many countries it is festering, and starting to decay. Challenges remain and evolve, but too frequently government is seen as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Successes and progress are achieved in spite of, rather than because of, government involvement. Improving the performance of government is the “elephant in the room” when it comes to addressing issues of national decline, and seeking ways to generate new prosperity and economic growth.
Government is too important to be allowed to fail. Every citizen and corporation needs government to perform at its best, the task is to ensure that it does. Habitually, when uncompetitive government gets into difficulty, the standard response of politicians is to try to reduce expenditure, to curtail services, to talk about tightening belts and austerity, while looking for ways to borrow more money and to disguise tax increases. The results of this piecemeal approach are seldom satisfactory. What is new and innovative tends to be cut, what is old and inefficient tends to remain. Halfhearted and superficial attempts are made at reform, but rarely is any significant improvement actually achieved. Extra burdens are imposed; government becomes worse not better. Instead what is required are not knee jerk responses or a plethora of short term initiatives, but a new paradigm that addresses the issue of maximizing government performance once and for all - competitive government.
Competitive government is a modus operandi that applies to everything that government does or seeks to achieve. It is not some narrow contracting out or outsourcing exercise, but about injecting competition into the very heart of government. In essence, it concerns how to make a country as prosperous, and as attractive place to live as possible. It embraces not just the efficiency of government administration, but more importantly, how good its policies and programs are in adding and leveraging the most value to its society.
Competitive government applies to government at all levels, not just national but supra national, regional and local. The principles of competitive government will be eventually adopted by all at some point. Few citizens want an underperforming government. Countries sink slowly at first, failing governments may limp on for years, but ultimately, they condemn themselves.
Governments either choose or will be forced to become more competitive. How it happens and when, is crucial. It is something that you can influence and shape. It is in your interests that it occurs as rapidly and painlessly as possible. It almost goes without saying, but the benefits that come from having a winning government, far exceed those offered by a losing government. For corporations, improving government is a key contributor to increasing profitability and investor returns.
Winning governments demonstrate very high levels of citizen satisfaction. They deliver first class public services, supported by tax regimes that foster prosperity, with regulations that enhance national performance. Success requires fundamental changes in the way government operates, what it seeks to do and how it delivers. As part of the process it becomes agile, enterprising and dynamic; it adopts best practices, facilitates choices, takes risks and innovates in its policies and programs. Winning governments ensure that they are at the center of a virtuous cycle of improvement, that is not only self-sustaining, but mutually reinforcing.
Inherent in competition is liberty. Competitive government cannot be sustained without a society and a political system that supports choice. The success of government rooted in democracy, with a liberal philosophy of individual freedom, equal rights for men and women, and a broadly capitalist economy is widely recognized. Those who deny, or seek to limit options, who repress information, that reject transparency, who stifle innovation cannot produce truly competitive governments. Indispensable are competing views; the freedom to debate different ideas or ways of doing things, and to make good or bad choices.
The presumption that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people is inseparable from competitive government. Totalitarian, authoritarian and repressive regimes may in the short term match or exceed the performance of democratic countries in some areas; but by denying the freedoms essential to competition, they cannot achieve lasting success and become victims of their internal contradictions. Countries that are so blighted need to find a way to throw off the yoke before they can even consider becoming competitive. Competitive government, however, holds out the torch of hope for those who yearn for change; the better competitive governments do, the more exposed and isolated bad governments become. This book is not about “rotten” or fragmenting governments other than to observe that nature abhors a vacuum and that such regimes are very dangerous not only for their own citizens, but for the international community as a whole, and demand collective action to address and resolve.
Democracy on its own does not secure competitive government. Positive outcomes matter, just voting is not enough. If governments do not have the power, resources or competence to deliver what the people want, are promised or expect, then confidence in the process is severely eroded. The razzmatazz of political campaigns is no substitute for effectiveness, a cycle of elections no guarantee of performance when in office.
The focus of this book is inevitably on “developed” governments but it is also highly relevant to “developing” nations. A country with a relatively poor government infrastructure and limited resources, can make rapid progress by learning from the mistakes of the more “mature” countries; potentially leapfrogging them in the delivery of competitive government. I am painfully conscious that I have not got all the answers. I am drawn to the notion that a book is more like an app that gets updated and improved over time.
I have not aimed to write an academic textbook or a political diatribe. I have deliberately produced a short book that is easy to read and accessible, without numerous footnotes and references. This is not a negation of scholarship, but a reflection of the view that weighty tomes, especially on government tend to put off readers, and their content becomes dated and increasingly irrelevant. Inevitably the text is conditioned by the year in which it was written, but it is my belief that the ideas behind competitive government will stand the test of time.
© Competitive Government 2016