Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Review: 'How to Make Your Government do the Right Thing' by Anastasios Syrianos

Greek author Anastasios Syrianos earned his BSc in European studies and an MA in Political Sociology and is highly respected for his knowledge and practice of ancient Greek philosophy and politics for the 21st century. He is both an author and online teacher specializing in political philosophy, emphasizing the righteous exercise of political power and how to achieve it today.

It is generally felt around the globe (not just in the USA) that government is simply not working. Why we have lost popular influence/control of the people elected to lead us is a quandary Anastasios addresses n this short but impressive book. In his Introduction he state, ‘Today it is widely accepted that how well any government functions depends on how good citizens are at making their politicians accountable for their actions. Those who accept this notion further affirm that political control of public officials depends on two factors; free and regular elections, and the degree of citizen information. The former allows citizens to discipline politicians who faced with the credible threat of losing office in the next period are compelled to respond to voters' interests, while the latter curbs the opportunities politicians may have to engage in political corruption. These two factors form the framework of how political accountability is exercised in today's democratic states. However, as I will demonstrate in this work, elections and information cannot in any way serve the purpose of effectively controlling and disciplining public officials. The concept of political accountability in an authentically democratic state involves ideas, processes and legal instruments that are entirely absent from the legal frameworks of today's so-called democracies. Contrary to what is widely believed, our understanding of political accountability and the processes we have as citizens in order to perform it are still at a primitive stage. In this piece of work I will present the reasons why the current concept of political accountability is ineffective and suggest practical ways which will allow citizens to control political performance and make their Government do what is right for its people.’

The four areas of question and concern are as follows - The fear of losing public office due to elections, How to effectively control politicians who fear losing their positions, How to effectively control politicians who do not fear losing their positions, and finally, An effective system of political accountability.

After an informative an challenging discussion Anastasios leaves the reader with this comment – ‘As you go away I would like you to remember that as humans are in fact social and political beings, we can never be truly and fully happy unless we live in a fair and just State that treats its members fairly and justly. The key to achieving that is the exercise of political power for the common good of the people.
If our aim is to be governed well it is necessary that we start calling our governments and elected officials into account.’

The first step is to examine how dysfunctional our current government is and then to employ the concepts Anastasios offers. Grady Harp, November 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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