10 April 2010

Policy by and for large organizations

This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favour of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner. English translation of an excerpt from a letter to Oakland Bishop John S Cummins, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 1985. (My emphasis)
Without making too much of an out-of-context translation of an extract from a single piece of correspondence, we can at least recognise just how powerful is the over-arching institutional goal of self-perpetuation, even when it conflicts with justice, humanity or rationality.

Every large organization is the same, whether it be a religious body, a large corporation, a trade union, university or a government agency: institutional survival is first and foremost. And, since government policy is made by and for large organizations, and government policy is now the single most important determinant of human and environmental wellbeing...well, we have a problem. The problem takes the form of social and environmental collapse. My previous post talked about subsidised over-fishing, but we face a broader challenge on many fronts. As nuclear weapons proliferate, as the climate (almost certainly) seems to be on the verge of alarming instability, policymaking hasn't adapted. While paying lip service to humanitarian concerns, we rarely see the explicit targeting of such meaningful goals as the avoidance of catastrophe, the stabilising of the climate, or the prevention of war. Instead, the existing array of incentives, the ones that have done so much to bring us mayhem in many different manifestations, continue to enrich the powerful and to finance any opposition to their reform or removal. Like the Roman Catholic Church, our most powerful institutions - governments - hold as their highest priority, self-perpetuation. Justice, humanity or even economic rationality don't stand a chance.

All this is well documented and unoriginal. Where I perhaps differ is in offering Social Policy Bonds as a corrective: a way of re-orienting government policy, and the massive incentives it offers, to favour the achievement of goals with which individuals can identify.

No comments: