The Role of the Institutions in the Development Process, Part 1

Exploring the framework for a “Balanced Development” model

 

Ramses Rashidi

©2008 Center for Balanced Development (www.cbdus.org)

 

In the last two articles we talked about the role of community in the development process. Here, we’re going to take a look at the role of institutions in development and the evolution of civilization.

 

The Government

Whenever we talk about a community, there is need for some kind of governance and administrative institutions. The process of social and economic development is directly influenced by the methods which the government chooses to manage the resources, foster the well-being of society and provide opportunities for individual initiative. We have witnessed the rise and fall of various systems of government throughout history. Most notable among these, which are still being utilized in some shape or form, are the capitalist and socialist systems. Here, the capitalist system places the individual at the center of attention and the socialist focuses on social contract and collective behavior. However, we are gradually realizing the there is no absolute system that can address all the issues and challenges that humanity is faced with and that any form of government is relative to its time and place. Overall, capitalism has been more successful in achieving relative balance in the development process, although it is currently having difficulties in addressing the social ills of the highly competitive and stressful lifestyle of the countries where it’s being practiced, such as the United States. Extreme socialism, on the other hand, has pretty much failed to achieve its intended goal of a classless society where sameness is interpreted as equality. In China, during the time of Mao Zedong, highly centralized administration curtailed individual motivation and brought economic growth to a virtual standstill.

 

Here the question is; what’s the ideal form of government?

How can the government bring balance back to our communities across the entire planet?

What qualities should we look for in government officials, or better yet, “public servants”?

 

In a balanced development model, administration at the local and national level is decidedly collective. In other words, the decision making process is in the hands of groups, rather than individuals. Decisions are made through consultation where everyone supports the majority decision. The government officials see themselves as the “servants” of the community and they act as such. Service is the watchword for development and it’s promoted at grass-root levels, as well as within the administration, business and social interactions. Public servants are elected by secret balloting and there is no campaigning. The public votes for individuals, not for political parties, or any other kind of divisive and partisan groupings. This would allow for the efficient administration of affairs, free of special-interest groups and focused on the proper utilization of human and material resources while building relations among nations and regions. Ultimately, in this process, we should be able to achieve collective global governance where the utilization of earth’s resources will be optimized and many issues dealing with nationalism and national interests will be resolved in favor of the collective welfare of all. 

Business and Commercial Institutions

The heartbeat of any economic system is business and the exchange of goods and services. As long as there has been recorded history, there have been commercial exchanges and activities. Regardless of methodology and irrespective of using the barter system or currency, we have been doing business for thousands of years. Today, the popular model of business is based on the concept of supply and demand. Basically, where there is demand there will be supply. In some cases a new product or service is introduced based on conceived demand. The supply and demand model is focused on the idea that entrepreneurs will meet the needs of society in terms of products and services, motivated primarily by financial rewards and personal goals. However, it’s not designed to question the effects of these needs and demands on our resources and society. We become aware of the adverse effects of an economic development trend when it produces catastrophic results posing a threat to our very existence. The petroleum industry represents a good example of a demand and supply model that is progressively causing irreversible damage to our environment and global social structure.

 

Our future development as a global community greatly depends on making changes and modifications to the current single-dimensional economic model of supply and demand. A more efficient way of managing our resources while propelling social and economic growth could be based on a system where economic development is adjusted in its relation and contributions to society, individual and resources. This could be achieved through voluntary and close collaboration among private entities and public institutions, or eventually through the establishment of a Universal Value System (as mentioned in more details in previous articles) where the value of a product or service is determined based on its impact on human potential, social relations, natural resources, and economic necessity.

  

Religious Institutions

Among the public institutions of society, religions play a major role. Although the function of these institutions is to bring a spiritual balance to material existence, yet, for the most part religious establishments have become the medium for the clergy to satisfy their personal ambitions and goals. On this path, the religious institutions that once had deep roots in the hearts of people have made every effort to ensure control over the masses and to hold power as their message loses its potency and becomes socially obsolete in an ever-advancing world. Today, traditional institutions of ancient religions, are desperately trying to hold onto to power through political means and by tapping into the fears of the illiterate and uneducated masses that feel obligated to support them. Furthermore, at a time when globalization has become a necessity for managing worldwide challenges and issues, religious movements that claim to have an exclusive access to “truth”, in reality, are isolating their members from the rest of humanity. Likewise, the self-righteous policies of religiously-oriented governments lead to conflict and contention with other nations who do not share their convictions or their belief systems.

 

Religion should be the cause of unity. It should serve the development process and create higher awareness of the current needs. Religion must be progressive and evolving to be able to address our ever-changing social conditions, while fostering individual growth and development.

There must be real harmony between religion and science to avoid adherence to superstition or absolute materialism. A religious person is truly concerned with the hardships and difficulties of his/her fellow human beings and uses every opportunity to help others and create bonds of friendship among people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Having been enlightened about the purpose of life, the need for the advancement of civilization and the necessity of the unity of mankind, the religious believer enlightens others to become the cause of unity and harmony in society and thus achieves progress and happiness in the most meaningful way.

 

In the next article, we will continue to examine the role of institutions in the development process. 

 

Ramses Rashidi (ramses@cbdus.org) is the founder and director of Center for Balanced Development.

The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and services to foster global balance in social, personal, ecological and economic development.

 

BD Article 033 En.doc