17 June 2011

Government by the rich, for the rich

House keeps farm subsidies, cuts food aid as it passes food and farm spending bill 'Washington Post', 16 June
This should be no surprise. We have known for decades that farm subsidies are insane; that they transfer income from the poor to the rich and that they do much to destroy the natural environment and animal welfare. But our corrupt political systems are incapable of stopping them. Much easier to cut food aid to those who count for nothing under the current regime: the poor at home and overseas. This is government for the rich by the rich. It makes a mockery of democracy.

If we made policy as if outcomes mattered, such lunacy would not survive. The tiny number of people who benefit from it can do so only because policymaking is an arcane process focused on procedure, funding, structural and institutional arrangements and other concerns entirely removed from those of ordinary people.

That's where Social Policy Bonds would differ: under a bond regime, projects, funding, and activities would all be orientated towards achieving specified social goals. The connection between policy and targeted outcomes would be explicit and inextricable. The public could engage with policymaking, so goals would have greater buy-in. The current farm subsidy regime is a symptom of a much bigger problem: that of the disconnect between policymakers and the people they represent. Social Policy Bonds, with their focus on meaningful outcomes, could re-connect policy with the public.

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