This model essay aims to provide some useful guidance for writing an insightful and impactful argumentative essay on an A-Level essay question. The essay is periodically interjected with Teacher’s Comments (TC) to allow a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the content.

Question Analysis

  • Keywords to take note: key, good government, economy, well-managed
  • Different levels of analysis:
    • Level 1: Yes, the key criterion for good government is how well the economy is managed
    • Level 2: No, the key criterion for good government is (another factor)
    • Level 3: No, a good government cannot be evaluated using just any one key criterion.

Fully-Guided Model Essay

Introduction:

The past century saw momentous changes in governments, with centuries-old monarchies being replaced with communist and democratic governments and the eventual triumph of democracy over communism. Such critical developments have been accompanied by many definitions on what constitutes a good government. In the modern sense, a good government can be broadly defined as one that cares for the welfare of the people, putting it above all other considerations. [TC: This definition is too vague. A good government strives to bring prosperity and support peaceful coexistence, which encourages personal development, achievement and enjoyment of life.] This coupled together with a largely capitalist society might suggest that a government with a well managed economy is a good government. [TC: This sounds awkward. Consider this: And this is often achieved with a dynamic, robust and well-managed economy. Therefore, some mandarins and intellectuals would prioritise economic management over other criteria in building a good government. Dynamic -> personal development of the masses. Robust -> achievement. Well-managed -> sustainability; enjoyment of life] However, I find this an unfair assessment as it is an overly narrow assessment criterion for a healthy economy is just one of the many products of a good government. Instead, I would argue that the key criterion should be accountability and transparency, which will ensure the social and economic well being of its citizens, through low level of corruptness and political stability. [TC: This is a level 2 analysis. Consider a level 3 analysis: Instead, I would argue that a more superior assessment should also include criteria such as accountability and transparency and to a smaller extent, democratic rights.]

Anti-thesis 1:

On the other hand, some economists would claim that a healthy economy is the hallmark of a good government. Indeed strong gross domestic product (GDP) growth can boost a country’s living standards, as with a higher income, the citizens would be better able to satisfy their material needs. For instance, Botswana has registered one of the highest average economic growth rates in Africa since its independence while accumulating negligible foreign debt. This has since catapulted poverty-striken Botswana to a middle-income country, with living standards comparable to that of Turkey, without sacrificing its future welfare. [TC: Good connection between debt & future welfare] Therefore, it would be tempting to conclude that if a government can manage its economy well, it is a good government.

Thesis 1:

However, we should not be misled by that fallacy, as such success stories are few and far between, more often than not, such growth is accompanied by significant trade-offs.[TC:Good evaluation] Some of these trade-offs could include neglecting the environment which would negatively impact the non-material living standards. The epitome of this trade-off between economic growth and environmental health is China. Ever since she has opened up her economy, the pursuit of economic profit has led to the fast-paced proliferation of factories in cities that discharge unchecked levels of pollutants at an alarming rate. The situation has since worsened till the point that only one percent of its urban population breathes air that is considered safe by European Union standards. [TC: Good evidence] Therefore, it can be seen that even though a country can achieve remarkable double-digit economic growth rate, it comes at a hefty health cost, calling the key criterion of good government as “how well the economy is managed” into question.

Thesis 2:

Instead, accountability and transparency, an integral part of many representative democracies globally, should be the key criterion when it comes to assessing governments. [TC: L2 analysis] Having strong accountability and transparency means that the government has to make public the processes and justifications that lead to the implementation of its policies. Increasing citizen participation can help to expose and stave off corrupt practices, ensuring that taxpayers’ money is well spent and that does not discriminate any religious or ethnic groups. For example, the Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden, have reported high levels of transparency and accountability in their governments, coming in among the top five in the 2014 Corruption Perception Index. [TC:Good evidence] One of the factors taken into consideration is to have full disclosure of the budget, in fact, they were shown to have the most open budget globally in 2012. [TC:Good evidence] Given that the government is trustworthy, ethical, responsible and accountable to the public, it is no surprise that Norway has continued to be the most prosperous country globally in 2014. Hence, accountability and transparency is key, more so than a well managed economy, for any government that wishes to remain in power in the twenty-first century. [TC: L2 analysis]

Rebuttal to Thesis 2:

Still, such a view has drawn flak from some academics even though studies have shown that good governance is correlated with strong transparency, accountability and economic growth. There is a fear that having too much transparency may bring more harm than good as it would impede the policy making process. This view is supported by a University of Pennsylvania Law research paper that stated that full disclosure of the policy making process may inadvertently cause the leakage of firms’ trade secrets that were provided to the government. Companies, being fearful of acts that could dent their profits, would then feel less obliged and restrict the quality and quantity of information that is made available to the government. Therefore, with incomplete and insufficient evidence or knowledge to craft policies, the final legislature could end up being a bane to the country. Thus, the argument against transparency being a key criterion for an efficient government may hold true despite being seemingly counter-intuitive.

TC on the whole paragraph: This is not an apt argument. You need to understand what is expected from a transparent and accountable government.

A Government that is trustworthy, ethical, responsible and accountable:

  • All decisions are fair and based on “merit”, and not on personal or individual political agendas, including nepotism.
  • The Government has clear policies to guide fair and effective decision making, and respects these policies at all times.
  • The Government evaluates its programs and decisions on a regular basis to ensure that funds are being managed fairly and effectively.
  • The Government has the conviction to respect its own decisions, even in the face of personal opposition, and knows how to deal with criticism in a constructive manner.
  • The Government provides a full, accurate and timely report and accounting on the funds entrusted to them, on a regular basis. These reports are designed to be simple, so that everyone can understand them.
  • Likewise, the Government provides a full, accurate and timely report and accounting on any commitments and campaign promises they made to the People.
  • The Government respects its Code of Ethics and Good Conduct, and enforces the respect of the Code.

Thesis 3:

However, some intellectuals contend that the main criterion for good government is to uphold and protect individual rights. Such a government helps to protect our freedom to life, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to vote, inter alia. These are essential features that strengthen civil society development, tolerance and respect for others. They hold that incidents such as the FBI’s harassment of civil rights leaders , the Army’s spying on the anti-war movement in the 1960s, and more recently, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the passing of the Patriot Act by President Bush and the Republican Congress, have all but severely undermined the citizens’ basic rights and freedoms. The U.S. government greatly increased wiretapping and other forms of surveillance of citizens, often without any evidence of any wrongdoing on their part. Thousands of people were secretly detained for months without any charges against them. Suspected terrorists were denied lawyers and the right to a trial. Some suspects were even sent abroad to other countries so they could be tortured[TC: Euphemism is enhanced interrogation] And 2005 and 2006 revealed the existence of extensive domestic spying programs by the National Security Agency and other institutions that are legally forbidden from doing so – a very disturbing development. Nonetheless, while government policies can sometimes threaten our freedoms, our legislatures and courts are also often the most effective avenues for defending and expanding our rights and liberties – for the general good – based on utilitarianism.

Conclusion (reworked to level 3):

In conclusion, it is unfair and misguided to posit that the key criterion for good government is how well the economy is managed. It ignores the fact that accurately assessing a government’s levels of efficiency and competency is both complicated and perplexing. While a well-managed economy may be able to signal the high degree of competency of a government through the fulfilment of citizens’ material well-being, this overly simplistic measure fails to provide a holistic evaluation of the government. Hence, a more superior assessment should also include criteria such as accountability and transparency and to a smaller extent, democratic rights. [TC: Inherently grey area] Indeed, countries are increasingly cognisant of the importance of using a multifaceted approach to measure their political monoliths.

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