30 November 2006

Don't rely on government

One of the disadvantagess of a large public sector is that it crowds out our natural, organic, bottom-up way of doing things. Whether it be care of the elderly or the sick, maintaining our physical environment or defining our cultural identity; the temptation for many of us is to let government do the work. This is not all bad: there are things that only government can do efficiently; but it does tend to reduce our own faith in our problem-solving abilities. It’s also an excuse for laziness in the face of urgent challenges. We think that, since we are giving more than a third of our income to the government, we don’t really owe society very much more.

Unfortunately, government inefficiency is legendary, and the recipients of its largesse (wealthy landlords, multinational corporates, the military etc) are not always those in most urgent need. But if our priorities are significantly different from government, we can actually do something to solve our social and environmental problems – even if we don’t know exactly how.

Philanthropists can issue their own Social Policy Bonds to achieve a specific goal with which they identify closely. They can back the bonds with their own funds, to be placed in an escrow account. Once their objective has been achieved these funds would be used to redeem the bonds. The philanthropists, once having got the ball rolling, could solicit funds from members of the public, who could contribute directly into the escrow account, and so increase the incentive for the targeted objective to be achieved quickly.

For those interested, I have written a small handbook, taking as an example female literacy in Pakistan: click here for a pdf file on how philanthropists could issue Female Literacy Bonds. I have tried and tried to communicate with philanthropic organizations and publications directly but, understandably perhaps, they do not seem to respond to my unsolicited emails.

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