26 February 2010


I refer to the standards of debate and the aspirations of some of our political representatives:
Mr Farage [UK Independence Party] drew jeers on Wednesday when he told the chamber of the European Parliament that Mr Van Rompuy had "the charisma of a damp rag" and the appearance of a "low-grade bank clerk". Source
It seems it's now respectable to judge our leaders by their appearance or whether they have charisma or not. Our political process is so corrupted and obscure that, it seems, we rely on a politician's image when it comes deciding whether or not they're worth voting for. Mr Farage is probably in sympathy with a large part of the electorate in this. It's the system that's at fault, and the fault is that we have become habituated to judging politicians by anything except outcomes. In a rational society outcomes would matter most. The problem is that society is so complex, and the political process so arcane, that identifying cause and effect in politics is largely impossible.

One result is the disengagement of ordinary people from the policymaking process. Corporations and lobbyists take their place. In a vicious circle, the wide gap between politicians and the people they are supposed to represent grows every larger. The current system makes it too easy for politicians and bureaucrats to evade or deflect censure for their inefficient or bad policies.

Social Policy Bonds would, I think, have many advantages. One is that they would refocus political debate on outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people. In stark contrast to the current system, rewards would be inextricably linked to achievement of these outcomes, and the outcomes would be clear, explicit and stable. More people could be involved in the policymaking process; they would also have more realistic views about what can be achieved with public funds and about the inevitable trade-offs that have to be made. One huge benefit is that people would buy in to the process and the resulting goals. In such a process, we'd assign the personality or appearance of politicians correctly - as zero.

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