22 July 2009

Preoccupied with trivia

In the midst of the most profound financial and economic crisis in living memory, what issues are the [British] political class arguing over? Not how our society should produce and distribute its wealth in the future, but how much a few bankers should get in bonuses and which bankers or bureaucrats should sit on financial regulation committees. Mick Hume, What good's an election without alternatives? 22 July

Public debate is always going to centre around issues that people understand. Our politicians and their corporate paymasters have successfully obscured most of the big issues in politics. Only specialists understand them, so matters of importance to ordinary people are resolved in favour of the existing vested interests. The media are filled with trivia, and urgent crises are ignored.

One of the big benefits of a Social Policy Bond regime is that it would start by clearly and transparently, deciding on society's targeted outcomes. These could include the absence of disasters, as well as more positive goals, such as reducing unemployment, or cleaner air and water. There would, in my view, be significant efficiency gains when a bond regime channelled market forces into achieving these goals. But perhaps of even greater benefit would be the accessibility of the public debate about which outcomes should be targeted, and their relative priority. People understand outcomes, so we could expect greater public participation in policymaking. We could also expect more attention to be paid to the big issues, rather than the trivia.

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