The litany of problems identified may lead some to despair but there is no shortage of proposed solutions. Unfortunately, too many are based on the perspective of single disciplines, each of which has a different view of the nature of institutions, their problems and  solutions. When lawyers look at institutions, they see formal rules (either constitutions or networks of contracts). They see problems arising from poorly drafted rules and the answer lying in more and better rules. Ethicists look to informal norms and values. If there is a problem, it is that those values have not been clearly articulated or applied to those at the coalface and they see the answer lying in properly doing so. Economists see institutions in terms of incentives and disincentives. Problems arise from perverse incentives and the answers lie in aligning incentives with the behaviour required. Political scientists see institutions in terms of power and institutional problems arise from those who exercise it and or how they exercise it.[i]

All of these have important but limited insights into the nature, problems and solutions for institutions. No single discipline can solve institutional problems alone, but in combining their insights they go a long way towards developing necessary solutions. The suggestions ART makes in this Policy Paper draw on all of these ‘governance disciplines’. They start with clarity of values including values about means (the rule of law, public trust and accountability) and the ends for which politicians promise to deliver if entrusted with the people’s power. This should provide the basis for considering the ethical standards officials should follow and the legal regulation and economic incentives to make it likely that those standards will be followed. The overall aim should be to make it: –

  • clear what is the right thing to do (through clear norms and opportunities for ethical advice);
  • easy to do the right thing (through the formal processes including human and electronic elements);
  • hard to do the wrong thing (as above); and
  • easy to find (through record keeping and auditing/investigatory institutions) those who choose to do the wrong thing.

[i] Sampford 2020 Submission to the Enquiry into Media Diversity by the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications

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