Identify and discuss five features of good governance.

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are no doubt different lists of attributes different people will focus on for a discussion of what good governance requires.  I have chosen five of my own, but there are many others that are important, too.  Ideally, good governance should include a rule of law, consistency, stability, efficiency, and transparency.

A rule of law is a necessity for good governance because otherwise, governance is arbitrary and capricious. Leaders who make decisions on a whim about matters of state are not governing properly.  If there are no laws, there is chaos and anarchy. People have no means of governing their own behavior, and there are no limits upon the government can do. 

Consistency is another attribute that good governance requires.  Policy should be consistent, not wavering back and forth. Laws and regulations should be applied consistently, too, so that people know what to expect and feel they are being treated equitably.  If a leader or group of leaders can make a rule one day and suspend it the next, this lack of consistency creates a society in which people do not know what to expect. If a leader inequitably enforces laws and regulations, people have no way of knowing what consequences will be for a particular behavior and will be unlikely to comply with any law.

An orderly transition of authority from one group or leader to the next provides stability, another requirement for good governance. When governance changes through revolution, assassination, or a military coup, for example, the entire state is destabilized, creating chaos. Another important facet of stability is a bureaucracy, which can carry on the day to day business of governance, no matter who the leaders are, with a trained cadre of experts who perform these day to day tasks, and whose allegiance is to the state, not particular leaders. Without a bureaucracy, transitions in authority are always a problem, since the tasks of government, national security, for example, would otherwise be forced to be organized anew for each transition. 

Efficiency is also important for good governance.  If a government is not operating efficiently, it is wasting the money that supports it.  People expect their government to provide services as quickly as possible and for the least amount of money possible.  If government wastes and delays, peoples' willingness to be governed diminishes.  Again, having a bureaucracy to carry on government activities helps to create a more efficient government, since bureaucrats are trained and experienced experts in their particular areas and can perform most government tasks well. 

Transparency has become a hallmark of good governance in today's world, letting the governed know what is being done and how it is being done. Transparency promotes efficiency and creates a setting in which corruption is less likely to occur.  When people believe that there are machinations behind the scenes, they feel powerless and paranoid, far less willing to be governed and far more likely to participate in corruption and other unlawful behavior themselves.