On the back of one of my recent articles, I found myself in a well-intentioned argument about the state of affairs in this part of the world. My tormenter was a good mate who was challenging some of my views. The discussion was friendly and sporting. It was actually good fun.

And it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about the core needs of a good and decent society.

And it got me thinking about what’s really important beyond the most basic food, shelter and clothing as defined by Maslow’s hierarchy. It prompted me to ask the question: what constitutes a good and decent society?

So I scribbled down a few ideas. The list quickly grew to the point that a page was filled reasonably quickly. After a bit of self-interrogation, I concluded that the “top 10” necessities for a decent society probably lie in the following things:

At the top of my list is law and order. A decent society must provide citizens with an environment where they feel safe and they can go about their daily lives without fear of incident or accident. If such an event occurs, we want to know we can turn to a highly responsive and compassionate police force, who in turn are served by a judiciary that operates a fair and truthful process in a reasonable timeframe, thus ensuring a just outcome for all concerned.

Next up, access to quality healthcare. It was the first thing I wrote down. I suspect it’s top of mind because it’s so topical in this country at the moment. My generation has taken such access for granted for most of our lives. However, the system has been slowly crumbling for a long time now and it has taken a pandemic to bring it all out in the open.

It now seems acceptable to have patients waiting hours for medical attention in the hallways of emergency departments.

In some cases we hear of patients waiting in a tent outside an emergency department or hospital entrance. Ambulances, it seems, are now a luxury.

Depending on who you listen to, we are short of medical personnel, our hospitals are overwhelmed, and Covid and the flu season have decimated the little resilience that once existed in the system.

I’m not sure where education should rate on a list like this. If we get education right up front, a lot of potential problems go away. The two issues highlighted above will diminish in a well-educated society. What I do know is that good education is a critical element of a good society. We need to get kids into school, keep them in school, and have them leaving secondary school as young adults who are able to fully function in the community.

Equality is a topic that has been debated for the ages the world over. One thing is for certain: it’s critical in a good and healthy society. In regimes around the world where equality and democracy have been compromised, failure of the state is a constant and certain outcome.

All people should be treated equally. Every person should be entitled to one vote. Everyone should be entitled to a good education, and be encouraged and supported in the development of skills that enable a career. Imagine a society where everyone is able to, and does contribute. As workers, as taxpayers, as engaged voters, and as mentors and leaders for the generations that follow.

At number five I have placed political integrity and transparency. Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you once had until it is gone. A good society requires well-qualified and capable people as leaders, and a well-intentioned and honest bureaucracy supporting them. Government is at its best when it doesn’t dominate our lives or the headlines. Good government should also be right-sized and fit for purpose.

Good government is when the water-cooler conversations are about the weekend sports results or the holiday you just had. If that conversation is constantly about the performance or failures of our local and national politicians and the governing organisations they represent, we have a problem.

Trade is a critical ingredient of a good society. People need access to goods and services. Trade enables necessities and luxuries alike to be delivered to the people who demand them. Trade also creates the economy. An economy where a small community or a large nation can earn its keep. Creating income and creating jobs. Trade is pivotal to economic wellbeing and success.

At the most basic level, trade creates opportunity for a community to gather and grow. Relationships are often built around the trading of goods and services, and those relationships pave the way for new opportunities and new communities.

Every person in a good society needs access to transportation. In this sense, access means a number of things. First, transport has to be available. Whether you travel by car, bus, plane or even boat, the ability to do so is first and foremost.