25 May 2009

What government can and cannot do

Government seems to keep growing. We look to government for solutions to everyone else's problem. To the degree that government creates problems, this is understandable. The lunacy of industrial agriculture, with its subsidies to rich landowners and large agribusiness corporates can be solved only when government changes its policies. Similarly for fisheries. But today's North Korean nuclear test is a dramatic example of how little governments can do. North Korea doesn't care about the wellbeing of its people; its government is answerable to no-one. Any attempts by governments to influence North Korea is going to be sold to North Koreans as coercion, and raise the stakes accordingly.

But our governments are not completely powerless: they could issue Social Policy Bonds that reward investors for the avoidance of a nuclear exchange, however they do so. More generally, they could issue bonds that target reductions in all sorts of violent political conflict. Government might not know what actions to take. And, as in the case of North Korea, it might be inherently incapable of bringing about good outcomes directly. But it can create incentives for people to research, discover and implement their own solutions to the urgent and huge problems humanity faces.

No comments: