Good governance requires good information

The company logo shows a Principal-Agent relationship, including the role of a sophocrat.

The Principal (P) is a decision-maker. An Agent (A) carries out the Principal’s decisions. The Sophocrat (S) supports the principal-agent relationship by providing an information feedback loop from agent to principal.


Sophocrat Logo

The function of the sophocrat is similar that of a thermostat in a heating system, or the ‘governor’ on a steam engine: it provides information, when it is needed, to ensure the agent performs as the principal intends or, more broadly, the system functions within its control parameters.

In a social, political or economic system, the sophocrat role is performed by (for example) an auditor, policy advisor, journalist, business analyst, statistician, data analyst, or researcher.

Some of the most interesting and challenging roles for the sophocrat are in systems where the Principal is a multitude of people with diverse interests (e.g. voters in a democracy, shareholders in a company, or consumers in a market) and where their “Agent” is a much smaller and more cohesive group (e.g. elected representatives, boards of directors, and producers of goods and services).

The concept of the Sophocrat is an extension of ideas I explored when working at the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit (now COMU), while writing a Master of Public Policy thesis on broadcasting policy.

The key ideas can be found in, or derived from Herbert Simon’s work, especially Administrative BehaviourOther sources include systems theory, systems dynamics and cybernetics. A sophocrat may operate in  systems that are simple, complicated, complex or chaotic; they regularly deal with the issues of bounded rationalityinformation asymmetry and the attention economy.