14 May 2006

Summing it up

The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern for human welfare and rights is, naturally, a subjective matter. But there are a few choices that seem unavoidable, because they bear so directly on the prospects for decent survival. Among them are at least these three: nuclear war, environmental disaster and the fact that the government of the world’s leading power is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes. It is important to stress the "government," because the population, not surprisingly, does not agree. That brings up a fourth issue that should deeply concern Americans, and the world: the sharp divide between public opinion and public policy....
This excerpt from Noam Chomsky's Superpower and Failed States sums up humanity's predicament accurately, though I would not myself ascribe particular blame to the US Government but rather to political systems everywhere, which all emphasise image, identity and ideology rather than outcomes. In an increasingly complex world it's too easy to escape or deflect censure for corrupt or incompetent policies: relationships between cause and effect are too obscure; blame can always be shifted. Political debate mirrors they system's obsession with irrelevance. But clear away the fog of strident commentary and party politics and you will find a high degree of consensus over what people actually want. Chomsky's probably right: most of us would see nuclear war and environmental disaster as humanity's most serious challenges. But our system doesn't allow us to articulate them as priorities; at best we can choose people who say - amongst many other things - they care about these issues but who when in power cannot or will not focus on them. It's not the politician's fault: they are part of a corrupt, corporatist system, whose raison d'etre is basically to keep things going as they are. Hence the chasm between public opinion and public policy.

Chomsky blames the US Government, but I rather think that blaming this or that faction is to get dragged into the very system whose failure he so well describes. As long as we see particular ideologies, parties or people as the problem, we're not going to change anything. So here is my suggestion for a transition to meaningful policymaking:

1 Politicians and their parties should check out real people's actual priorities. I believe, as I say, that they would then find themselves having to deal with the possibility of nuclear war and global environmental challenges, of which climate change is the most pressing. If, having too much of a stake in the existing circus, they won't do this then it may be up to you, readers of this blog, to do the right thing, which is:

2 Issue Social Policy Bonds that target these priorities. Social Policy Bonds are non-interest bearing bonds, sold on the open market, that would become redeemable for a fixed price once the targeted goal had been achieved. Click on the links in the right-hand column for more information. Afterwards, have a look at my handbook for those interested in issuing their own bonds.

Targeted outcomes need to be built into policies right from the start. These outcomes must be meaningful to real people, not government agencies or corporations. Every other way of doing things has been tried and has failed. The power of vested interests has seen to that.

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