It's obvious that governments should spend within their means, shouldn't debase the currency, and shouldn't destroy the environment and social cohesion. But today's policymakers operate in a fog of obscurity and micromanagement. They are preoccupied with ideology, activities, institutional structures, spending plans, image and news management. In such an environment, it's too easy to lose sight of principles. Attention spans shorten; the focus shifts from the long term and crucial to the short term and flippant. Problems that can't manifest themselves as dramatic tv footage are neglected.
Expressing policy in terms of broad, desirable goals, as Social Policy Bonds do, could get us out of this predicament. We could issue bonds that become redeemable at the end of a sustained period of, for instance, world peace, fiscal continence, contained inflation and unemployment, and low levels of environmental destruction.
It's unlikely to happen. Governments just don't think like that. It's unfortunate that, at a time when governments are big, democratic and influential enough to articulate society's goals accurately and to raise the revenue to achieve these goals, they cannot relinquish their control over how these goals shall be achieved. Instead, they centralise more and more, as if power is an end in itself. Big government doesn't have to be remote, one-size-fits-all, rigid, error-prone and a threat to the well-being of mankind and every other species. But, because it fails to measure success in terms of explicit, meaningful outcomes, that's precisely what it has become.