Ten Principles for a Rule-Ordered Society

by Martin Krieger

Shui Yan Tang, Ten Principles for a Rule-Ordered Society, Enhancing China’s Governing Capacity 2012 China Economic Publishing House

Yan Tang of Price’s faculty has written a basic introduction to how rules lead to a stronger more vibrant and richer society. His audience here is Chinese administrators and government, so the examples are a mixture from US and Chinese history and experience. He wears his learning lightly, and the book is direct and powerful for that reason. Yan is trying to make the deep insights of institutional analysis (ala Elinor and Vincent Ostrom) available to a Chinese audience. Yet, the book should be read by every student in public administration, planning, and public policy. Why? Because these are lessons derived from a vast web of scholarship and experience, and from years of teaching, by a mature thinker and teacher. And they are presented in such a way, that they might be adopted even by those whose current power resides in a more arbitrary system.

The principles are, in my words: make it easy to follow rules; rules should be clear; informal rules help formal rules; create expectations that all will follow the rules; enforcement is sensible and fair; rules are suited to the problem; rules are made and applied close to the relevant community, in scale and power; there are procedures for resolving conflicts in applying the rules; those who enforce rules are constrained; rules encourage “self-interest rightly understood” (a la de Tocqueville).

The principles only make sense when they are given substance through lots of examples. Tang provides them.

The book is short, less than 80 pages, but is actually twice as long since the English and the Chinese are on opposing pages. It is learned and down-to-earth, theoretical and practical.

Right now, it is not easy to get, since it was published in China. But I hope it finds a Western distributor before long.

 

MK