As the New Year approaches, there are two particularly urgent challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation and climate change. Our current approaches, in my view, are going nowhere, slowly. Iran is rejecting nuclear sanctions, while Kyoto, even if it were to be a success in its own terms, is going to be divisive, expensive and ineffectual. Unfortunately, we are so accustomed to handing over responsibility for social and environmental problems to some level of government or other, that we assume either that solutions to humanity’s problems are at hand, or that there’s nothing we can do about them anyway.
A third approach is that of Social Policy Bonds. Charge the private sector with tackling these problems. Admit that we don’t yet know how to solve them, but encourage people to research, investigate and implement diverse, adaptive solutions. Inject the market’s incentives and efficiencies into the whole process; so expanding the pool of human ingenuity devoted to solving these real problems. We don’t even have to wait for government to do it. We could issue our own (pdf) Nuclear Peace Bonds (here’s a similar idea) or Climate Stability Bonds. All it would take would be for some interested philanthropist to put up the funds, and let the market for the bonds do the rest. Of course, once the ball got rolling, contribution from members of the public could be solicited, which would swell the total redemption rewards.
The first hurdle is the one that looms largest, to me anyway. I have tried and tried to contact philanthropists and publications for philanthropists. With not a single exception my emails have not even been auto-acknowledged. No doubt these organisations have devised effective filters to screen out unsolicited messages. Are any readers of this blog philanthropists? Do you know any philanthropists? Do you know how to get in touch with philanthropists? I fear the current alternative, waiting for government to do something helpful, is just not going to be good enough.