10 April 2009

Shock: somebody else concerned about policy outcomes!

But a progressive policy needs more than just a bigger break with the economic and moral assumptions of the past 30 years. It needs a return to the conviction that economic growth and the affluence it brings is a means and not an end. The end is what it does to the lives, life-chances and hopes of people. Look at London. Of course it matters to all of us that London's economy flourishes. But the test of the enormous wealth generated in patches of the capital is not that it contributed 20%-30% to Britain's GDP but how it affects the lives of the millions who live and work there. What kind of lives are available to them? Can they afford to live there? If they can't, it is not compensation that London is also a paradise for the ultra-rich. Can they get decently paid jobs or jobs at all? If they can't, don't brag about all those Michelin-starred restaurants and their self-dramatising chefs. Or schooling for children? Inadequate schools are not offset by the fact that London universities could field a football team of Nobel prize winners. (Emphasis added) Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So what comes next?, Eric Hosbawm
This is where Social Policy Bonds come in; or, at least, outcome-based policy. We cannot afford any more ideological experiments, even benign ones. But neither can we return to the days when the world was simple enough for the relationships between policies and their effects to be reasonably accurately identifiable. The only solution I see is to express policy in terms of agreed, targeted outcomes. It seems Hobsbawm agrees.

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