31 August 2006

Moral blindness

It's tempting sometimes when confronted with the arrogance of power and the results of its abuse to think that any opposition to it is justified. Who could not react to the heart-rending images of team A's bombings of team B's children by concluding that anything done in the name of team B deserves our support? It's a very human response, a natural reflex to man's inhumanity to man. But being just such a reflex it does nothing to stop the violence. It is purely a reaction, with no other organising principle. It perpetuates the cycle by strengthening a coalition allegedly in support of team B, which strongly believes in its right to oppose team A. Which it does by adopting similarly murderous tactics.

So it’s not surprising, though it will be disappointing to some, to read today that:

[Venezuelan President] Mr Chavez was given the red-carpet treatment as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed him at the presidential palace on a hill overlooking the capital, Damascus.

In one corner, then, we have the US and its allies, in the other those who are defined entirely by their opposition to the US. We are all part of this process and most of us lose from it, but perhaps outcome-orientated policymaking can break the cycle. It could start fairly small: by issuing Social Policy Bonds that target localised conflicts. A bond regime could build a coalition that is motivated by ending violence, rather than promoting it. Under the current system, the financial incentives on offer tend to augment our base human instinct to oppose violence with violence. A Social Policy Bond regime that rewarded peace would supply countervailing incentives. In other words: give greed a chance.

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