IT’S interesting indeed when government policy is thrown open to the public, ostensibly for a debate to seek feedback on how the policy in question goes down with the masses. Most people misinterpret this to mean that the government is serious about wanting input from the great unwashed.
This is one of the great myths that is prevalent even today.
It’s something like the various ombusdmen set up in some countries to provide an outlet for the public to complain when they feel shafted by companies in some sectors – telecommunications and banking, for example.
Giving a person a chance to vent their frustrations provides a form of release. The ombudsman makes a pretence of listening – a very good imitation, I may add.
In the end, one gets little or no redress unless there is something really wrong going on and the original decision stands.
The same happens with government policy. Some bright spark decides on some policy to garner votes for the next election from a section of the populace which normally does not vote en masse for the party in government.
The best way to pretend that it is being done in consultation is to ask some other person in the party to invite a discussion – these days, that is done mostly on the internet. In years gone by, it was by issuing a white paper and then inviting people to write in with their suggestions, support or objections.
The original policy always includes a little wiggle room, concessions which the government is willing to give anyway. If the public do demand some concessions, the government then gives in on ground which it never wanted to enforce.
The public feels quite good about its activism and celebrates the ground it has gained. The government laughs all the way to the poll.
If the government is unable to get the policy through parliament because it lacks a majority of its own, then it concedes certain things to the opposition and certain others to the public. The wiggle room is always built in to the original draft.