16 June 2008

Government is not the solution - or the problem

It's unfortunate that so much of politics takes the form of arguing about the size of government. For me, it's not that government is big that is the problem; it's that big government tends to be remote government - but that is an observation rather than an inevitability. We owe a lot to big government:
[W]e prefer to take our chance of cholera and the rest than be bullied into health...
So the [London] Times said, in an editorial protest against government-imposed basic sanitation schemes aimed at reducing cholera levels in London. The date: 1 August 1854. In those days identifying solutions was relatively easy: we needed sewerage systems, the provision of basic health, education and infrastructure, as well as the public services of law, order and defence against invasion. There's still a case to be made for government intervention now to maintain and improve these services, but there is less of a case for government provision of them.

Under a Social Policy Bond regime government could still prescribe such universally desired goals as basic sanitation, or very low levels of infectious diseases. But it would not have to get involved with trying to identify and provide efficient ways of achieving them. It could concentrate on what it does best: articulating society's goals, and raising funds to pay for their achievement. The actual work would be done by those who can do it efficiently: they would be bondholders, or people financed by bondholders. In this way, market forces would be given free rein over the area in which they perform best: the allocation of resrouces to achieve the ends prescribed by government; with government acting in its proper role as people's representative, rather than as an investment company.

No comments: