Governmental constraints: A framework for analysis
Wekesa M. J. Wesonga
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Thenotion that a national government could face constraints in its operations - apart from resourcelimitations - has received littleformal theoretical treatment, especially in thefield of public administration. And yet the government, like any other earthly agency,faces multiple constraints in its operations. Constraints impact state performance and they should be acknowledged in any meaningful evaluation of state actions. Some work on governmental constraints has been done by scholarsfrom different disciplines (and sub-disciplines) , such as comparative politics and international relations. These studies, however, do not embrace the broad perspective we believe befits' the multifaceted nature of constraints on state operations. This paper articulates an interdisciplinary conceptual framework within which constraintson state operations can be characterized, categorized and analyzed. Wepresume a democratic polity, and advance the basic idea that government, as a social organism, can constrain as well as be constrained by others. Defining a governmental constraint as anything that is prescriptive, proscriptive or physically restraining, on state operations, we suggestthree criteria for categorizing such constraints. Such a constraint can beformal or informal. It can be domestic or international, and finally it can be internal or external (to the government). In a liberal democracy the national constitution restrains the state from some actions (e.g. baseless detention of citizens), and also requires the state to carry out other actions such as maintaining law and order. In such a polity public opinion usually sways state actions. Moreover, with the rising international integration of markets, the national government isfacing declining control over the national economy. Add on to these the conditionalities that accompany bilateral and multilateral aid and the situation starts toget crowded. All these are instances of the myriad constraints that the state faces in its operations.