Problem

Domination of government policy-making by short-term considerations

Other Names:
Short-term policy making
Immediate appeasement responses of leadership
Economic priorities rule
Immediate economic priorities
Nature:
Governments tend to seek to satisfy immediate national desires which are generally inconsistent with safeguarding the interests of future generations. This is particularly true where governments are elected for relatively short periods (for example, 2-5 years). Leaders are then motivated by the effective terms of their political tenure, or the comparable interval of some national plan. In addition, governments are staffed by individuals whose outer horizon of relevance is often bounded by their own death, or at most, by the life of their children or grandchildren. The notion that man's use of the earth is a sacred trust for future generations, although present in pre-industrial societies, has been lost in industrial societies.
Incidence:
Government policy frequently reflects pressure from the business community even when it is not the direct voice of that community. In the case of interest-payment defaults on international loans, lending banks, agencies and consortia influence governments to postpone settlement by authorizing and supporting the re-financing of nearly insolvent countries. This short-term solution is gambling with the entire world monetary system.
Claim:
Governments, and still more so individual ministers within them, are not only relatively short-lived (an international ministerial conference held at two-year intervals usually results in only about 30% of the ministers present at the last one also being present at the next) but are also necessarily too preoccupied with the problems of today, or at the very best of tomorrow, to have much capability in the realm of very long term thinking. Senior officials for their part are too busy serving ministers and carrying on the day-to-day business of government. In fact it is quite idle and quite unreasonable to expect that governments will initiate the process of definition of the functions or of extensive reform of existing intergovernmental institutions which they support. They have neither the time at a high enough level for such a complex task, nor the inclination, nor the detachment necessary for so immensely complicated and controversial a labour.

One of the most difficult problems for democracies is to reconcile the national need for big, long-term investment projects with the objections of those who have to live near them. As technology marches forward, the dilemma of where to put highways, industrial plants, nuclear power stations, airports and the like becomes more and more difficult, because present images of leadership are centred on satisfying the immediate needs of as many people as possible. Degenerate democracy, as this governing philosophy could be named, is a perverted form of the concept that the creativity of all the people is relevant in the governing process. The right to representation without the principle of accountability to the world, results in government that is representative only of individual wants.

Narrower Problems:
Crisis oriented operations
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Date of last update
27.03.2000 – 00:00 CEST