Efficient Democracy : Conditions

Operating Principles

by Eckhard Sambach



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A modern democracy requires the general acceptance of its principles of operation.

  1. The principles (1)
    1. The primacy of the general interest (general well-being) in the medium and long term. It is the sum of the (positive and negative) elements expressing the well-being of all citizens in the medium and long term.

An action or regulation is meeting the general interest of a society if

      1. it is able to realize the objective pursued
      2. it can be morally justified against the views of all groups making up a society
      3. the overwhelming majority of citizens hold the opinion that
        1. it is serving the longer term prosperity and continuity of society
        2. the extent of its advantages is allowing to expect from certain citizens to support the disadvantages involved
    1. The principle of responsibility, i.e.
      1. personal responsibility of citizens
        1. the responsibilities for self-preservation,
        2. the responsibilities for their family,
        3. their responsibilities in the society.
      2. collective responsibilities, i.e.of public institutions and private organizations.
        They include the causer pays principle applying in particular to
        1. both sides of industry having to support the costs for the labour force no more demanded at the level of wages and salaries they fixed, i.e. that they make and keep unemployed.
        2. enterprises having to support the costs caused by their polluting the environnement
    2. The principle of credibility of the politicians, i.e. of the citizens who aim at or have a responsibility in a political party or in a public institution. These personalities are subject to particular requirements :
      1. Separation between mandate (legislative bodies) and administration (executive bodies) (in the countries of a certain size)
      2. Stable and easily verifiable criteria
        1. for being able to assume responsibility in a political party or in a public institution: Qualification, integrity and minimum age (according to the degree of responsibilities connected to the position)
        2. for a correct behavior. These criteria go beyond the requirements for the normal citizens and are all the more severe as the position is important
      3. Limitation of the mandate: The mandate for any position of responsibility in a political party or in a public institution is limited to five years. During his political career a citizen is only entitled
        1. to occupy two of these positions or
        2. to be re-elected once
      4. Prohibition to occupy after retirement positions in the private sector producing rewards (including advantages in kind) exceeding a certain percentage of the person's other incomes (p.ex.30 %)
      5. Sanctions
        1. Significant penalties in case of reprehensible behavior (infringement with the principles of correct administration, fraud, nepotism etc.).
          1. Perpetual loss of eligibility and of the faculty to occupy a public position in case of conscious violation of his oath or of the criteria for correct behavior.
          2. Automatic end of mandate for all the members of a steering board (without possible denomination) if
            • the reprehensible behavior of one of its members was known in the board,
            • the institution has not fulfilled its task after a preset period.
        2. A court before which each citizen can go to law, if the offence "abuse of social goods" or "infringement against the general wellbeing" is publicly documented
    3. The principle of efficient allocation. It is seeking in particular a rational allocation
      1. of resources. It requires
        1. an efficient type and degree of competition including the flexibility of relative prices
        2. a system of incentives and deterrence guiding the actions of politicians and citizens according to the general interest in the medium and long term,
        3. the highest possible coherence of decisions and actions.
      1. of policies (objective and instruments). It is based on:
        1. The principle of subsidiarity. This principle determines the institutional sector or sub sector being able to most rationally ensure a permanent task of the society. It is with this sector that falls the principal responsibility for assuming a specific task, such as the stability of the price levels, a high level of employment, public health, sound and durable environment, regional cohesion, assimilation of people eager to integrate. - According to this principle, the essential task of public authorities is to create and maintain the goods (infrastructures), services, rights and obligations that only they can create for the sake of all the citizens, i.e. a reliable global framework of society.
        2. The principle of proportionality. It is based on the fact that an institutional unit/sector can only realize the objective of a policy which it is responsible for if it is able to use the necessary instruments. This principle requires for each policy a balanced relationship between objectives and instruments at the disposal of the agent/sector concerned. At present, this means a sufficient number of efficient instruments given the
          1. increased) number of political objectives and
          2. the suppression or more limited applicability of a certain number of instruments (due to economic integration and globalization)
        3. The joint application of these two principles determines the institutional sector or sub sector (municipality, area, nation, international organization) which can ensure the greatest effectiveness to a given policy. For this purpose it is advisable to distinguish between two types of policy:
          1. Policies based on regional differences in conditions of production (mentalities; climate; geological, institutional, economic particularities): They organize the use of comparative regional advantages and are carried out at the highest possible institutional level
          2. Policies based on regional similarities in conditions of production (mentalities; the global framework; objectives and instruments): For being accepted and effective, they are carried out at the level providing the maximum of these similarities.

The respect of these principles is a condition for the acceptance of the governmental policies by the citizens. At our days this condition can be realized only in a participative society.

(1) The numbering of items corresponds to that of the Site Map (A - i).


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- A comparison of these conditions with reality indicates the type and the extent of necessary reforms -

The author thanks you for
proposals for improvement

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Copyright (c) 2003-2005 by Eckhard Sambach. All rights reserved.