14 April 2010

No vision = mass apathy

In trying to explain the mass apathy around the forthcoming British election, Anatole Kaletsky writes:
A more convincing explanation [than colourless] personalities or [expenses scandals is with respect to] ideas. There are plenty of new policies in the manifestos. Some are even quite good, such as the Tory plan to finance new schools run by parent co-operatives or Labour’s promise of a green investment bank to finance energy technologies that cannot compete commercially with fossil fuels. The problem for all parties, as many commentators have noted, is the absence of any overarching narratives, ideological worldview or even tribal and class loyalties to link these scattered ideas. The old politics is dead. But where is the new?, Anatole Kaletsky, 'The Times', 14 April
I think Mr Kaletsky is onto something here. There's no coherence behind the ideas; only sound-bite sops to interest groups. Such ideas as there are pay lip service to efficiency or value for taxpayers' money, but there's no compelling vision. He goes on:
What Britain will need in the next five years is not less government and more market or vice versa, but a whole new agenda of policies combining and adapting the principles of market and political competition to promote objectives ranging from stable financial markets and clean energy to efficient social services that neither markets nor bureaucratic institutions can achieve on their own.
That's where some combination of outcome-based policies and market incentives could play a role. I'm still hopeful that one day Social Policy Bonds will at least be considered. There are a few straws in the wind, in the form of policies that link rewards to outcomes (Social Impact Bonds for example) - but they are few, and they don't have the breadth or fluidity of Social Policy Bonds. Government at all levels does find it hard to relinquish control, and rarely does so without a struggle. So, in contrast to my earlier thinking, I now believe private entrepreneurs or groups of philanthropists will be the first to try out the bond principle.

No comments: