Good Government

Good Government

The Relevance of Political Science

Edited by Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein

In all societies, the quality of government institutions is of the utmost importance for the well-being of its citizens. Problems like high infant mortality, lack of access to safe water, unhappiness and poverty are not primarily caused by a lack of technical equipment, effective medicines or other types of knowledge generated by the natural or engineering sciences. Instead, the critical problem is that the majority of the world’s population live in societies that have dysfunctional government institutions. Central issues discussed in the book include: how can good government be conceptualized and measured, what are the effects of ‘bad government’ and how can the quality of government be improved?

Chapter 11: Legislators and Variation in Quality of Government

Staffan I. Lindberg

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international politics, political economy, public policy, regulation and governance


Staffan I. Lindberg In Chapter 2 of this volume, Rothstein and Teorell elaborate on impartiality as the inherent meaning of quality of government. Their compelling argument extends that in Rothstein and Teorell (2008) and Teorell (2009) where the core conceptual meaning (Sartori 1984; Adcock and Collier 2001) of impartiality is captured by the statement “When implementing laws and policies, government officials shall not take into consideration anything about the citizen/case that is not beforehand stipulated in the policy or the law” (Rothstein and Teorell 2008, p. 170; see also Teorell 2009, p. 13). This chapter suggests two things: while these authors’ conceptualization makes a lot of intuitive sense, one problem is that lack of attention to that quality of government is not only a matter of bureaucratic impartiality. Bad quality of government not only arises from dysfunctionalities on the implementation side of politics and in the administrative arm of the state. It can also grow out of electoral mechanisms on the input side, and from politicians, not civil servants, acting with too much discretion in distributive politics. Second, and as Rothstein (2011, p. 15) stresses, the problem of bad quality of government is not only, or perhaps not even primarily, about corruption. The main issue is better thought of as favoritism, which is a broader phenomenon including most types of corruption but also many acts that are not corruption per se. This chapter’s contribution is principally to demonstrate these two points. LEGISLATORS In many countries, including in most developing nations,...

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