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How does a government in general know (find out) whether it is doing good to its citizens?

Let's define 'good' of citizen as 'good' of person (human). In my definition it is that each person's voluntary decisions lead to satisfaction (positive subjective feeling) where the person gains in the decision/transaction and no other person gets hurt or becomes sad (e.g. kid buys cookie which makes kid happy without being sad to spent its saved money, while the seller is happy to get the money for the cookie).

  • Curious for the downvote arguments. – Venca B Spam Apr 20 at 20:00
  • There are, as I write this, three downvotes and two votes to close as Too Broad. Presumably the two people who voted to close also downvoted. Personally, my take on this question is heavily influenced by this comment. That answers the question as asked. If that's not what you wanted, you should think more about what you do want and how to ask it. Another issue is that what you want may be off-topic, as speculation about how your system would work. Meta? – Brythan Apr 21 at 0:15
  • I do not understand how this could be off-topic in politics. I tried to find similar question before I asked and found none. If I would want to know answers from textbook, I would not put the question here, answering like this, and I really do not mean it offensive, is just copy&paste without thinking. By specifying what is meant as 'good' in this question makes in my opinion the question pretty narrow. – Venca B Spam Apr 21 at 9:14
  • @VencaBSpam Your specification seems to be aiming at limiting the answer rather than the topic. It looks like you are trying to ask "How can a government do good when we know that governments are incapable of doing good?". That is a political point of view rather than a question. – Paul Johnson Apr 21 at 12:24
  • @PaulJohnson As 'good' is pretty subjective, I believe it is important to specify what good means. I never said "when we know that governments are incapable of doing good". Maybe there can be kind of governance which is capable of doing objectively measurable good in my definition of good. Therefore I asked such question. If I know how the government can find it out, I can look for government types and try to simulate what would fit best to my requirement. – Venca B Spam Apr 27 at 10:04
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Cynically, by:

  1. Altering facts to fit a hypothesis. Ignoring bad news or negative data. So if a goverment's hypothesized metric of good government was how near it could come to full employment, and too many were not employed, it could redefine "employment" to no longer include many of those formerly counted as unemployed. Then conflating the old factual definition with its higher numbers and the new factual definition with its lower numbers, thus claiming it has "lowered" unemployment.

  2. Retconning a hypothesis to fit the facts. "I meant to do that." Claiming some obvious failure was one component of an earlier long-term plan (that was kept secret... until today). Grabbing credit for the benefits of some earlier policy the government had vehemently opposed, or pretending it has always favored a successful policy it had long opposed.

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There are several ways. In no particular order:

  • Financial measures such as GDP per person, median income, disposable income.

  • Social measures: crime rates, education rates (more education is generally assumed to be good), unemployment rates.

  • Health and wellbeing: availability of medical help for sick or injured (lots of measures depending on how the health system works). Overall life expectancy and rates of illness.

  • Opinion polls: do people generally think the Government is doing the right thing. Do they expect to be more or less well-off in the future.

  • Elections: losing seats in the legislature is a bad sign.

  • The answer actually does not answer my question. Any of suggested measures can not be objectively measured and worst can be easily manipulated. Unfortunately nowadays world shows how these textbook principles does work in real world politics. – Venca B Spam Apr 20 at 19:54
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Governments usually come up with their own definition of the good of the citizens. Some governments believe that people should be protected from harmful products like tobacco. Other governments believe that informed adults are allowed to take some recreational drugs which have been socially acceptable for a long time but not others. Most governments believe that citizens should be taxed the least feasible amount, but they disagree wildly on what is a necessary expense and what is not.

In a democracy, competing definitions of the good of the citizens face each other at the ballot box.

If they are not corrupt to start with, people who get into politics do so because they have strong opinions about the good of the nation and the citizenship. They want to convince the voters of the rightness of their political platform.

Governments also order scientific studies of the impact of their policies. But the way the questions are framed is influenced by their own definition of the good of the citizen. Some might ask "Did the bill reduce homelessness among veterans?" while others might ask "Did the bill increase home ownership among middle class families?"

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