making local government more ethical

Good Government A Principal Factor in Improving the Environment

Good, open government does more than give people reason to trust those who spend their tax dollars. It even gives people a better environment.

According to an article in last week’s Economist, the annual Environmental Sustainability Index, which grades the environmental health of 150 nations, found that although the single biggest variable determining a nation’s ranking is income per head, this isn’t enough to improve a country’s environment.

Economic growth certainly leads to cleaner sanitation and better water supplies, which help people, but not necessarily to improving pollution that harms nature, such as acid rain. The biggest variable with respect to this sort of pollution is good governance.

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That’s why the Dominican Republic is far above Haiti on the list, Costa Rica is far above Nicaragua, and Belgium has the worst record in Western Europe (Belgium is a divided country whose Flemish and Walloon politicians can’t get along, even though it would be in their constituents’ best interests).

The most important aspects of good government, when it comes to pollution, are accurate data, transparency, lack of corruption, and checks and balances. In nations of similar income level, tough regulations and, especially, enforcement of those regulations are key factors.