The Christian Vote (6)
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Good Morning and Welcome to this week’s Gospel and Culture update, by Alan Vink
The Christian Vote (6)
Tuesday 15th August 2023
Trust - The Social License to Govern
Human beings are remarkably trusting. It is interesting how we quite naturally give our trust away every single day and many times a day at that. Each time we buy coffee at our local we implicitly trust the barista that he/she did not poison our coffee. As a shareholder of a publicly listed company we implicitly trust the Directors, whom we do not personally know, to look after our financial interests. When we walk into a new building we implicitly trust that it has been well built and it won’t collapse. When we appoint/approve a new elder at our local church we implicitly trust he/she will have the best interests of the church at heart. That’s how the world works and without the concept of ‘mutuality of trust’, it doesn’t bare to think how life might be. Imagine if I couldn’t trust other drivers to stick to the road rules on my drive to work or trust the train driver who does the driving for me.
This precise same thing applies to a country’s Government.
This concept, often referred to as the "social license to govern" is rooted in the idea that governments and other institutions require the trust and approval of the people they govern in order to effectively carry out their functions. This trust is not legally binding like a formal license, but it represents the unspoken approval and support of the community that is being governed. This is absolutely crucial for maintaining stability, legitimacy, and cooperation within a society.
At its core, the social license to govern is built upon the premise of trust. Here's how the concept works:
Trust and Consent: In a democratic society, governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed. People agree to be governed and abide by the rules and decisions made by the government in exchange for protection, services, and the maintenance of a functioning society. This mutual agreement is based on trust – the belief that the government will act in the best interests of the people and the broader community.
Accountability and Transparency: To maintain trust, governments must be accountable for their actions and decisions. This involves being transparent about their intentions, policies, and the rationale behind their choices. When governments operate openly and honestly, they foster a sense of trust among the population. Conversely, when decisions are made behind closed doors or without proper explanation, trust can erode very quickly.
Listening to Public Concerns: The social license to govern also requires that governments actively listen to the concerns and feedback of the public. This means engaging with citizens, civil society groups, and other stakeholders to understand their needs, aspirations, and grievances. When governments address these concerns and integrate the public input into their decision-making processes, they demonstrate their commitment to representing the interests of the people.
Responsive Governance: Trust is reinforced when governments take meaningful action in response to public concerns and priorities. This could involve implementing policies that address social, economic, and environmental challenges, as well as taking steps to rectify mistakes or misconduct.
Balancing Interests: Governments often need to make difficult decisions that involve balancing competing interests. The social license to govern requires striking a balance that is perceived as fair and equitable by the majority of the population. This balance may involve considering economic growth, environmental protection, social justice, and other factors that impact society. The balancing of interests is exceedingly challenging for a Government and invariably results in the need for compromise. It is my observation that many Christians have very little understanding of this dynamic when it comes to the role of Government that has been democratically elected.
Building and Sustaining Trust: Building and maintaining the social license to govern is an ongoing process. It requires consistent efforts to demonstrate integrity, responsiveness, and a commitment to the well-being of the public. When governments uphold these principles over time, they are more likely to retain the trust and support of the people they govern.
In summary, the social license to govern is a concept that highlights the importance of trust as the foundation for effective governance. It emphasizes the need for governments to continuously earn and maintain the approval of the people they serve by being transparent, accountable, responsive, and by demonstrating a genuine commitment to the welfare of the community. When for whatever reason this breaks down then some kind of remedial action is needed to restore trust as quickly as possible. That is why Chris Hipkins had to act decisively when Nash, Woodhouse, Allen and Tinetti ‘mucked up’ recently. He really had very little other choice. Whether we agree or not about the actions he took we can surely agree that New Zealanders still put a fair amount of trust in Government Ministers to always do the right thing.