A test of good government is really quite simple. There is an unambiguous distinction and balance between selfless service and selfish self-interest which provides a threshold of plausible authenticity and good will by which we might measure the actual benevolence, competence, aptitude and intelligence of any governing body in any organisational or cultural context. While every idea, every organisation and every person will inevitably and as a matter of psychological, cultural, biological and material necessity, entrainment or acquired bias and without conscious volition orient themselves towards their own existential continuity and best self-interests, the benchmark of good governance is that rare political or ideological artefact or embodied entity of genuine self-sacrifice, service and compassionate surrender to a greater good.

Measure value by the ratio and balance between how much time, energy and money are invested in an equitable and endlessly exploratory search for better ideas, for better solutions, in contrast to how much effort and rhetoric is expended upon a false dogma of having already identified the one true way and perfect, only path. The truth, or rather – fact, is that there is no “best” way, there are only “better” ways and governments, like universities, that are invested in seeking new and intelligent solutions are far more genuine than any haggard jingoistic hyperbole that endlessly celebrates a handful of self-interested concepts.

There are of course deep psychological as much as biological principles at work in all of this. It is quite simple to assess the merits of an organisational or ideological system upon the balance and ratio or symmetry referenced earlier. When the amount of energy expended on continuity of an ideology becomes greater than the value that is produced for the largest number of a people, then that is in effect a false government. When acts of public speech become exercises in justification of the literal feathering of their own nests through endless banners of stupidity and ignorance, then that is a false government. When an organisation becomes more captivated by its own narcissistic aspiration towards an impossible dream of closure, control and empire-like continuity, then you know that the government involved long ago left the best-interests of its constituents behind.

As a matter of logical necessity, all patterned symmetry and complexity in the world seeks continuity and efficient or optimal methods of self-replication. When a government or an ideological nexus and gravitational center seeks self-continuity in ways which invalidate the quality of life, safety and security of the people that they serve, you can easily identify that it is the wrong self-which is being replicated. The general human confusion of our world is infectious and leads to lashing ourselves – yes, all of us – to the mast of every passing ideological ship, seeking comfort in the reflexive psychological continuity that tribal membership and narrative caricatures promise but endlessly fail to deliver. The self of hateful difference, manufactured or exploitative distance and divisive speech and action is a false self, but it is also the simplest one to understand – which indicates the primary reason for its success in a volatile, uncertain, complex and – often enough ambiguous – world.

If good government is in fact that which doesn’t seek its own selfish interests, which I acknowledge is in its own way a value-laden and problematic assertion and by all available evidence may only ever be partially realisable, where in the world can we actually observe this compassion, intellect and priceless wisdom at work? Where we see it, if we see it, we should copy it, evolve it and refine our shared best interests from it, together. I am not certain that we actually do witness it anywhere or in any flavour of social system, political theater or ideological tribalism. The true measure of value and of political, organisational and ideological sincerity is the extent of persistent selfless sacrifice and unselfish compassion but this is, sadly, a fragile thing.


Some more mildly-exasperated impromptu thoughts from yours truly on a cold winter’s evening, somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere of planet Earth. I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round…

One thought on “The Test of Good Government

  1. Of course, the game of politics is one in which vigorous self-interest is usually a mandatory character trait to be able to survive the bruising tribal selection processes and psychological burdens of public life. In this way, it is almost impossible for the leaders we actually need to percolate through variegated cultural and administrative filters to attain central or pivotal roles.

    This is yet another enigma of our world – that the intelligence and compassionate honesty required to effectively remediate, refine and uplift humanity are personality traits most often crushed by the selection processes and, should they luckily find their way to the center, they encounter there an overwhelming tide of dissonance, conflict, inertia and wasteful, self-induced systemic entropy. It is a Gordian Knot.

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