02 June 2009

A new organising principle

Mick Hume talks about the effect that the expenses scandal is having on UK politics:
What politics have New Labour or Conservative MPs really got to stand on today? Which of them now is really going to offer themselves to the electorate as a party loyalist? In that sense, perhaps the candidates will all be ‘independents’ at the next election, standing on no more than their expenses sheets or promises to be purer than the old gang. ... No, we may not need the old political parties or political class. But we do need politics, and much more of it - political ideas and principles that can contest a fight for the future. I do not support any of the existing parties - or, for that matter, any of the new ones to emerge so far. But I do recall why political parties were formed in the first place: to represent distinctive interests, classes and movements in society, standing on manifestoes that meant something to people. Today we have the empty shells of parties without politics, which have become little more than closed, self-serving patronage and PR machines. We would be better off without them. But to shape the future we are still going to need organised politics of some form, with people standing for collective interests, rather than ragbags of worthy but pointless wandering independents. They're all 'independent' now - but from what?, Mick Hume, 1 June
Here's a suggestion: organise politics around outcomes, rather than personalities, personal probity, or the interests of powerful corporations and bureaucracies. Political debate centres on trivial or arcane details, rather than the broad direction government should take about society and the environment. All too often, these important questions are answered by default; usually by deferring to vested interests. The big decisions are rarely put to the voters. We simply aren't used to consulting people about the outcomes they want, and the priorities they place on them.

But there's no inevitability about continuing along those lines. Policymaking is largely about making trade-offs. It would be no bad thing if we, the people, had to choose between incompatible outcomes. A Social Policy Bond regime, because it costs objectives would give us the information we need to make these choices. Apart from greater efficiency, transparency and stability of policy goals, Social Policy Bonds would therefore bring home to us the realities of decision making. They would make clear that we cannot look to government to solve all our problems, all the time.

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