People and Government Relations

Sometimes I wonder how governments and the people should get along. In a perfect world the people have goals and the government works to achieve them. While that is intuitive, it is not very practical.

The people have different goals

Even in a family, it is likely the people do not agree on the social factors that matter most. Regional differences, rural versus urban, old versus young, gender, ethnic, or religious differences, and many more metrics make the point of goals difficult.

Taken as a whole we don’t have a collectively precise goal set.

Governments have a problem.

There are two parts to the problem.

  1. The government must decide on how to allocate resources to the problems and preferences the people have identified.
  2. The government has ideological preferences that can move their interest in addressing problems and opportunities.

There is a balancing act there. The government must get elected periodically. Their preference is to ideology first, but they must connect that to the people’s wishes so people may see that the government is acting in the people’s interests. Not an easy task.

The reality distortion trick

Every such trick relies on truth or a version of it. It is impossible to persuade people unless there is some element they can connect with. To make it motivational, the facts must be selected that match the purpose of the government and others must be suppressed. remember that governments have a larger list of facts than any of the people have. It is not so hard to select the ones they want and to make their case plausible. Those that are not interested in the point will ignore it as irrelevant anyway. so no harm there

Plausible is quite enough to support a course of action.

The government will present a course of action that addresses the point.

Even if they accept the idea of it being plausible, the people should ask three questions. Thomas Sowell offers guidance:

  1. Compared to what?
  2. At what cost?
  3. What hard evidence do you have?

If those questions are addressed objectively the “unintended consequences” will show up before implementing. A careful assessment of alternatives and costs will bring them out. Evidence is a ruthless master. Ideologically driven programs seldom have much of it.

Common ground

The result should be something both the people and the government can accept.

If the program follows this mission outline people will accept it and if it does not work out they will understand.

  1. We are trying to accomplish
    1. this goal,
    2. with these resources
    3. by this date.
  2. Here is what we are relying on for this choice.
  3. We have not chosen specific other options because
  4. Here are possible other outcomes that could arise from our choice
  5. Here is what we will do when we identify adverse outcomes as happening.

If I buy into this program, I will give you credit for trying and will not hold you accountable if it does not work out.

IF YOU QUIT when you know it doesn’t work.

In the real world, managers know many things do not work out and they stop doing things that don’t work as soon as they know. If the strategic goal is valid they will try another approach. Doubling down on failure is not reasonable.

If there is a program that aims at outcomes instead of superficialities, we can understand a thought from George Saville, Marquis of Halifax. 1633-1696

“Power is so apt to be insolent and Liberty to be saucy, that they are very seldom on good terms.”

How like our current world. When the people and the governments are on good terms, the world becomes a better place very quickly.

Another thought

If you organize your own thinking around Sowell’s three questions, much of your planning will improve. Understand your vision, and the options you have to make it real.

Organized common sense minimizes the cost to achieve goals.


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com 

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