07 October 2011

Government by distraction

Brendan O'Neill writes:
The otherworldly nature of [UK] party conferences is a consequence of some huge political shifts in recent years. It is the hollowing-out of the mainstream parties, their speedy and profound jettisoning of members and grassroots supporters and their subsequent disconnection from the public, which creates today’s strange and alien political culture. Meet the PC oligarchy that now rules Britain, 'Spiked', 6 October
Exactly so. At a time when we need maximum public participation and buy-in to policymaking, we have a system that is guaranteed to alienate ordinary people. Much can be explained by our politicians' relentless focus on things that are irrelevant to normal citizens: gestures, sound-bites, institutional structures, prestige projects, quirks of personality, Mickey-Mouse micro-targets, and many other distractions. We lose sight of the big issues: facts like unsustainable levels of government borrowing or the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Who benefits from government by smoke-and-mirrors? Those who can afford to pay think-tanks, lawyers and lobbyists to follow and influence the policymaking process. That means billionaires, big corporations, trade unions and other interest groups - including government agencies. It doesn't mean ordinary people.

Recasting policy in terms of outcomes could close the ever-widening gap between politicians and the people they are supposed to represent. Social Policy Bonds would refocus policy onto outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people, who would be better able to understand and participate in policymaking. A bond regime would reward only those who help achieve our social and environmental goals. All government-financed initiatives would be undertaken with the aim of achieving these goals as efficiently as possible. And, in stark contrast to the current system, 'creative destruction' would operate: failed projects would be terminated.

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