21 September 2009

We're all Siberians now

Colin Thubron quotes 'Shamil', an inhabitant of Severbaikalk, at the northern tip of Lake Baikal:
Young people don't feel connected with this country, because its system isn't ours. It's an old people's system. It comes from another time. So we'll go to America, or anywhere that will free us. It's not that we don't love Russia, it's just that we have to live properly. We're young men born into an old man's world. Colin Thubron, In Siberia (page 151)
Old people as individuals probably do feel some responsibility for their legacy. But old people collectively, acting politically, are different. They are bequeathing a world in which environmental challenges are addressed, if at all, when it's too late to do much about them. Similarly for man-made challenges, such as the risk of nuclear catastrophe. The systems supposed to solve global problems, and many national problems, have been given over to organizations that take an old-fashioned view of problem-solving; a command-and-control paradigm that relies on top-down identification of the causes of a problems, and the hand-picking of the most politically correct solutions. It is in that sense that we are all Siberians.

A Social Policy Bond regime would be different. The identification of causes of problems would be contracted out to investors in tradable bonds, which become redeemable for a large sum only when the targeted problem has been solved. No special political caste, or priesthood, would choose how to solve the problem; that would be left to powerfully motivated bondholders, or their competitors in the bond market. In such a way, failed solutions would be swiftly terminated, rather than, as now, continued indefinitely to save political face or to prolong the life of redundant, but politically powerful, vested interests. A Social Policy Bond regime would be a young person's system, in the sense that it would reward efficiency and success rather than seniority and control.

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