• Stefanie and Mallory

Success in Satisfaction

Updated: Mar 9, 2018

Authors: Michelle Feng & Lyanne Spittje

Despite its often-credited failures, successes in public governance can be seen in innumerable ways. From both the micro, localized level to the more overt, plainly obvious macro level of the state, the difficulty of applying policy and constructing laws for a state continues to be one of the primary questions underlying humankind today. Communities cannot function without the order created through laws and public policy. Only through successful public governance can a community subsequently flourish. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to establish what ‘good governance’ exactly means. In ‘Governance: What Do We Know, and How Do We Know It?’ Fukuyama (2016) describes the issue of defining ‘governance’ and its quality. Although one might at first think of a ‘good government’ as a democratic, well organized state, whose main goal is to translate the voice of the citizens to implementation policies and laws, this is not necessarily true. Fukuyama mentions two articles, by Rothstein & Holmberg (2011) and Dahlberg & Holmberg (2014) in which is stated that a ‘good government’ does not necessarily have to be a democratic one. This brings into the question of what good governance truly entails -- can an authoritarian state, if its aims are to protect the people, still be considered good governance? Various development outcomes are more strongly correlated with the quality of state services than with democracy (Fukuyama 2016). Fukuyama also writes: ‘citizen satisfaction is more strongly correlated with bureaucratic quality than with procedural democracy as input to governance’ (Fukuyama 2016: 92). This implies that even an authoritarian government can be seen as a good government as long as they perform their tasks well. Of course, this statement is debatable. Can any government be called a good government if they contribute only to some extent of citizen satisfaction? Or indeed, not at all?

If we look at North Korea as an example in this statement, we could say that the litter-free streets are a contributing factor to the satisfaction of citizens. However, the clean streets are not due to a successful policy on trash-management, but because there is not enough to litter from. People don’t have enough products in their possession to produce trash (, 2013). This can be labelled as a failure of the North Korean government. Clean streets do not outweigh the failure to supply citizens with minimum living requirements, we would argue. So the democratic values embodied in government are of greater importance than the positive outcome of clean streets.


Dahlberg, Stefan, and Sören Holmberg

2014 Democracy and Bureaucracy: How Their Quality Matters for Popular Satisfaction: West European Politics: Vol 37, No 3., accessed February 13, 2018.

Fukuyama, Francis

2016 Governance: What Do We Know, and How Do We Know It? Annual Review of Political Science 19(1): 89–105.

Holmberg, Sören, and Bo Rothstein

2011 Dying of Corruption. Health Economics, Policy and Law 6(4): 529–547.

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