Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Nature of Power in Government Systems

Human society is unique in terms of how it self regulates itself. And more interesting than that is the variety of ways it has come up with, to self regulate itself. The phenomena of regulating the way the society works is seen in certain animals also. For example ants have social structure. Similarly Lions live in a pride bound by certain rules. However what is different in human society is the variation with which it has ruled itself and the system has been constantly evolving with time.

We have seen the government systems evolving from autocracy to democracy, which is fundamentally two extremes. Autocracy is about rule by one and at the the other end of the spectrum democracy is the rule by many (or all). Then their are variations in the middle. 

Are these systems of governing very different or can we define all the systems on certain common parameter? Is there any parameter in governance systems which we can use to differentiate between different types of government or the systems are too different.

I think if there is one important parameter on which we can define the nature of different governments. It's about how widely the power to rule is shared. We can call it as Power dissipation and how much power is dissipated can be put in a Power dissipation index. When no power is dissipated it is 0 and that's what autocracy can be identified with. If there is maximum power dissipation, we can see democracy in action. And the power shared among a set of individuals can be identified with aristocracy or communism.

Please note that this has nothing to do with the quality of governance. The best and the worst governance can be provided by autocracy. If we put it in other words then, democracy can never be as best or as worst as autocracy. Democracy at best will provide an average governance. Autocracy is at extremes. Based on who is the ruler it can provide the best governance and if ruler is bad, then it goes to other end. However both the end are still autocracy.

Coming back to Power dissipation index, we can lay down all the government types on this particular index. This is about how widely power is shared. When I say power, it means the power to make rules and to enforce those rules. It also included the authority to punish if someone does not obeys the rules. In autocracy, this power is vested completely to ruler or king. In democracy, this power is in a sense vested to people who pass it on to elected representatives by means of election. And the common people have the power to call back those representatives in elections.

Power Dissipation Index
Power Dissipation Index
We can draw the Power dissipation index as a triangle. The area of the triangle on the upward side will represent the number of people that are sharing the power. Autocracy is represented by 0 power dissipation. Democracy has maximum sharing of power though it may not be 100 in real life.

Again the power dissipation index has no relation with the quality of governance. However in autocracy there is little opportunity to change the government if its bad . On the contrary, democracy provides frequent opportunities to change. It may also lead to changing good governments at times, as people get driven by short term perceptions and not long term goals. 

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