03 November 2009

Lobbyists, buy-in and climate change

As policymaking becomes ever more remote from the people it's supposed to benefit, it's salutary to recall that it wasn't always like that:
As Kim Phillips-Fein recounts in her new book, Invisible Hands, most Fortune 500 firms didn't have Washington public-affairs offices in 1970, but 80 percent did by 1980.... Labour's last stand, Ken Silverstein, 'Harper's Magazine', July
That's aside from the the cash directed at the political parties. I think it's quite dangerous to have such a disconnect between politicians and the public. The corporations have objectives of their own, which have more in common with each other and government agencies than they do with ordinary people. Results are a widespread disenchantment with politics in general, apathy and cynicism. Issues such as climate change become highly politicised, which reduces their chances of being addressed properly.

A Social Policy Bond regime could narrow the gap between politicians and people. It would take as its starting point desirable social and environmental outcomes. These are more amenable to public participation than the legislative game-playing at which Washington lobbyists are so adept. Greater public participation would promote public buy-in to policies, some of which will urgently need it. To take climate change again: there are disagreements as to whether it's happening and (more so) about what we should do about it if it is happening. A Climate Stability Bond issue that targeted an array of physical measurements, and human, animal and plant life indicators could reward the achievement of a stable (however defined) climate to the satisfaction of ordinary people. It would be left to the market to assess, continuously, what's actually going on with the climate, and to bear the risks of failing to get it right. That has to be better than the current approach, which, bogged down as it is by lobbyists, charlatans and politicians of all flavours is, to be frank, going nowhere.

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