These kinds of questions are not only to be asked of governments, but also of those who challenge governments, or even those who appeal to ethics as if they were distinct from politics. Regardless, we can ground this discussion of authority in a brief case study of Bolivia and its interaction with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), for this will concretely display a division between voices that aim at declaring what “ought” to be done.
“While respecting their right to criticize government policies, [Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro] Garcia said foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations needed to understand their place within Bolivian society” (TeleSUR).
In deconstructing this statement, we need to keep it mind what the person speaking thinks the “ought” is. Vice-President Garcia’s concerns are rather specific, for he is concerned with NGOs that are funded and influenced by foreign companies and governments. While the NGOs are exercising federal rights, according to Garcia, their place in the political process is elsewhere than directly influencing the government, because the ideas that NGOs are exercising are transnational. Thus, we land into Garcia’s authoritarian voice in that he has just addressed a demarcation for proper political involvement, which means that political involvement has to be “Bolivian.” Garcia states:
“Finance in your own country, there is no need for you to come and interfere in our country, our relationship with foreign governments and companies is very clear: service in function of our policy and usefulness in function of a sovereign state; but not for the purposes of covert political action…” (TeleSUR).
The criticisms arriving from NGOs are improperly political in that they reflect ideas from elsewhere, as well as the self-interest of others.
Perhaps Vice-President Garcia is correct; perhaps the NGO’s and their associates are correct; however, this is not what we are here to evaluate. For in constructing a criteria for political involvement, Vice-President Garcia has just exercised the voice of authority – “I know better than you” – in structuring a given place to the involvement of NGOs.
In this sense, there is no question of truth or legitimacy, but authority. As we have just seen with Garcia’s rhetoric of justification, authority displaces truth and legitimacy to the convenience of the speaking authority. The “truth” and the “legitimacy” of the political process, according to Garcia, are established in the way he conceives the relationship between governments and NGOs to be. It is here that one should ask, what justifies this justification? What makes the transnational influence “bad,” so to speak? What if the ideas promoted by NGOs are in the best interests of Bolivia and they are rejected simply because of foreign influence?
That being said, this interrogation is not only dedicated to Vice-President Garcia, for the NGOs should be put under the same critical schema. Namely, that in criticizing the government, they are operating upon a given notion of “ought” different of that of the government. And much like Garcia structuring the place of NGO’s in Bolivian politics, the NGO’s themselves are structuring the place of government in politics. So, we move on to ask, “What is the justification?” “What is the justification of the justification?” only to find the voice of authority, where “truth” and “legitimacy” are displaced in trying to structure society.