06 October 2011

Five jumbo jet disasters a year in the UK

Despite clear improvements in road safety, the annual cost to the UK economy of all [road] deaths and injuries remains significant at around £13 billion (i.e. around 1% of GDP), with damage-only accidents estimated to cost a further £5 billion. Source (pdf), quoted on Man's Greatest Mistake
A shark attack anywhere in the world means instant headlines, as does a plane crash or a terrorist atrocity that kills a few dozen civilians. Rightly so, perhaps, but then we - or rather, policymakers - should make a lot more of the everyday killing that occurs on our roads. By some measures, the UK has the safest roads in Europe but even so, 1850 people were killed in 2010. Road accidents are so routine, or so difficult to film for televistion, they don't merit much in the way of media attention. Policymakers should do better. The most cost-effective way of saving lives would be to allocate funds across all life-threatening causes, however mundane and unspectacular.

Social Policy Bonds have amongst their advantages that of being able to target such broad goals as longevity. They reward outcomes, not activities. Under the current system, funding for activities that are supposed to improve longevity is allocated according to a range of often spurious criteria, such as media attention, past levels of funding, or the identity of likely victims. A Social Policy Bond regime would allow policymakers to target all threats to longevity (however defined) impartially. This cannot be done under the current system, as funding is allocated to bodies that have little interest and incentive to consider the overall health of the nation. Funding goes to bodies according to criteria that may have little to do with outcomes. It's funding as if outcomes - real outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people - don't matter.

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