18 July 2006

Measuring quality of life

Here in Cologne it is liberating to be able to walk around the city late at night and feel safe. It's difficult to do this in much of the English-speaking world. To some extent, fear of crime is subjective. Issuing Social Policy Bonds targeting this essential element of a decent quality of life relies on some reliable way of measuring it, or at least measuring how it changes. But it's important to try to quantify such variables under the current policymaking regime too; otherwise it will tend to be ignored, much like other critical components of a decent life, like social cohesion or (until recently) the physical environment. The need for objective data on these features is a function of the size and complexity of our societies. These rise inexorably, partly because of the influence of lobby groups especially large corporations and government agencies, which can use their muscle to maximise their short-term objectives. Social Policy Bonds would subordinate such goals to outcomes that are meaningful to natural persons. Targeting the safety of our streets and homes would be one way of doing this.

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