The Good Life as a Public Good
Good life as a political concept was first introduced by early academics such as Aristotle who stressed on the realization of good life only through cooperation among citizens within the state. The aspect of good life within the political science environment refers to the availability of private and public goods to the citizens in amounts and ways that are satisfactory to them. Private goods may include liberty, individual life and pursuing happiness are some forms of common private goods. Pursuing this element of “good life” has been deemed relatively easy for individuals that are financially endowed or those who found themselves in privileged economic and social circumstances. However, at this point, an ethical question arises as to whether very individual should be given an equal opportunity to pursue their idea of good life.
The government plays a major role in determining the number of people within their territory who enjoy the perception of good life as well as the degree of good life being enjoyed. Naturally, using assumptions from academics such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, the state exists for the sole reason of serving the needs of its citizens thus validating the requirement that each citizen redeem their authority over to the state to act on their behalf. In terms of “good life”, the government’s role is to provide those goods and services that no single individual can provide on their own. However, despite modern understanding of good life encapsulating all genders, occupations and situations, the ancient comprehension of the “good life” concept was slightly limited. According to Aristotle, women, captured soldiers and the lower class people could not lead the good life as their decisions were made by other people and therefore they could not practice the good life virtues. Legally affirmed children were also unable to engage in activities that contributed to the good life. These and other groups were excluded by Aristotle from enjoying the good life based on issues that they could not control.
The provision of public goods such as electricity, water, clean air, transport and security is done by the government and set the stage for the realization of private goods and consequently, “good life”. Take an example of maintaining social order through installing a policy system such as the constitution. This policy framework will facilitate or constrain the realization of private goods such as liberty and following happiness. The mode of governance is central in the realization of the concept of good life in that good governance is directly related to realization of a higher level of good life while the reverse is also true.
Aristotle was vital in elaborating the different types of government and the rationale behind each type. He proposed a monarchy where a single individual ruled, an aristocracy where a small elite ruled and a democracy where the bulk of the citizens ruled the state. In doing so, Aristotle elaborated on the advantages and demerits of each form of government. Both the monarchy and aristocracy held elements of tyranny or dictatorship that was perpetrated by the minority. Abuse of power was another negative quality of the first two forms of government. In such states, the provision of public goods was minimal let alone private goods or the actualization of “good life”. For the purposes of realizing good life, it would be prudent to adopt a democratic type of government would best make this national need a reality. Although his choice of democracy was motivated by the pursuit of an ideal state, Aristotle was largely right in as far as realizing “good life” was concerned. The next major reason for selecting democracy as the best type of government to actualize the “good life” lies I the foundation of the concept itself. “The good life” is founded on justice as its framework and other principles such as righteousness, development of gifts into talents and emotional depth among personal property. There exists a close relationship between good governance and the realization of the good life and this forms the major part of the paper.
The two concepts of good life and good governance are virtually inseparable. The idea of good life and governance both refer to economic development and political progress. Policy wise, this implies that good life is a result of good governance. Within states that have realized positive multi-dimensional development, good governance was at the core of its operations. Rent-seeking activities such as taking and giving bribes, excessive and pointless lobbying and corruption form part of the bad governance and which are significantly eliminated in good governments and this is what is reflected in the positive growth to a level that provide public and private goods and allows people to live “the good life”.
Good governance is characterized by conventional, open and informed policy-making, an administration instilled with a professional culture acting to promote the public good, the law, open processes, and an independent civil society that actively participates in public affairs. Bad governance conversely is characterized by random policymaking, inexplicable bureaucracies, unacceptable or unfair legal systems, the misuse of executive power, a civil society secluded from public affairs and extensive corruption. Good governance has constantly illustrated that it has two main purposes. In neo-liberal circumstances, it promotes privatization, balancing the prices as well as serving liberalization needs. Another role of good governance is to recuperate the abilities of the state to improve accumulation of capital, acquisition of technology and growth spurring.
The right to good life has gradually developed to become a significant aspect of domestic and international politics. More importantly, this meant an increased responsibility among government to make possible the creation of a situation that fosters the full realization of the inner physical, emotional, mental and spiritual potential within in its citizenry. The three main conditions necessary for any government to bring the good life to its citizens include a deliberate development program, an efficient delivery system of collecting real-time information on the living standards of citizens, and successfully execute government programs. The above discussion has elaborated that the existence of a good government is not dependent on the financial status that means that it is not a preserve of healthy states. Countries such as Chile, Botswana and Slovenia as having good governance while not being global financial powerhouses. However, it is imperative to stress that good governance leads to higher living standards.
The adoption of good governance leads to the realization of good life in the following way. The World Bank provided six components of good governance that include government effectiveness, the rule of law, political, civil and human rights, control of corruption and political stability. The achievement of whole or part of these components resulted in higher dividends for the state. Increased dividends results into improved living standards. Access to basic needs such as food, security, education, healthcare and housing pushes the citizenry a step closer toward realizing the good life that is the realization of all public and private goods. Good governance has to be based on the excellence of organizations so that progress is dependent on this instead of relying on political resolve, individual willpower of a leader and state ability that may not be sustainable in the longer term.
Employing skilled personnel is not adequate if the government structures lack the capacity to utilize these skills effectively. Transparency is another significant element of good governance, and transparent in making decisions is vital for the private sector to make good decisions and speculations. Responsibility and the rule of law necessitate transparency and constant flow of information so that higher ranks of administration and the public can validate performance and observance of the law. Governments have access to a vast amount of significant and relevant information. Distribution of this information in a transparent fashion can provide precise information that organizations and individuals need to make rational decisions.
Individualism versus advocacy of community values
Individualism is an ethical position or social viewpoint that stresses the moral value of the person. Individualists endorse the exercise of one’s aims and wishes and so value autonomy and self-sufficiency while opposing external intrusion upon an individual’s interests by organizations, society or the government. Conversely, being communal in the governance refers to a widespread or broad approach toward administering of public and private goods. In addressing the issue of active, passive or moderate governance, the solution is not straightforward or easy. There is no preferable type of governance and the choice of administration depends on internal and external factors within a specific state. The level of development, international allies (foreign policies), trade partners, level of political and social maturity and the main economic activities determine the level of aggression that the government will adopt in handling the citizenry. However, human beings commonly opt for optimistic choices and this would imply that active governance would be more lauded as being the model or ideal form of governance. In developing states, it is definitely the best type but for first world states, even moderate governance would still be sufficient. This is because such developed states have adopted nearly all the components of good governance. Therefore, the state is self-sufficient and operational despite the influences and actions of individuals and groups that may contradict the will of the government. Of the two, individualism would suffice as a better choice as it allows the citizenry to become independent and strong enough to counter the decisions by the government that deny them the opportunities to attain or retain their good life.