03 July 2006

Entrepreneurs and managers

Arriving in Germany from the UK dramatises the difference between entrepreneurship and managment. The British have historically been pre-eminent at setting up enterprises, but not at all good at managing them. That appears to be Germany's forte, at least in my initial experience. In contrast to the UK, public transport is well-organised and clean. But, as Richard D North says in a fascinating essay:
The Continentals pay for their orderliness. Only the most crushing civilisations can keep violence at bay. Perhaps France can do it, except when its over-wrought tidiness of society gives way to revolution or upheaval. They saw violence in the 90s, and was suburban. It was a revolt against Corbusier-in-exile, against the peripheral estate, in which neither of the traditional continental virtues - self-conscious urbanism and full-bloodied ruralism - is expressed. The German historic propensity to break out of dullness into violence is the expression of a society which doesn't understand the need for routine hooliganism, the British triumph.

Is this relevant to Social Policy Bonds? Perhaps: a bond regime could convert management and bureaucracy into a profit-seeking endeavour. It would grant supernormal profits to people who excel at achieving stated social or environmental goals. It would, in short, inject entrepreneurial incentives into solving our problems. Our current system sets up institutions mostly either government or run along bureaucratic lines, that provide only civil service type incentives the to their employees. There is little correlation between the financial rewards to, say, UN peace-keepers, or researchers into climate change mitigation strategies and their success in achieving their objectives. They are paid salaries on the basis that they turn up to work. But meeting our serious global challenges needs more than good management. Social Policy Bonds could play a part in channeling some of our awesome ingenuity and creativity away into achieving public sector goals.

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