29 October 2011

Matt Taibbi gets it

Matt Taibbi writes:
Our world isn't about ideology anymore. It's about complexity. We live in a complex bureaucratic state with complex laws and complex business practices, and the few organizations with the corporate willpower to master these complexities will inevitably own the political power. Griftopia
This is something I have been saying for years (here, here, here and here, for examples). Complexity has had the effect of excluding ordinary people from the policymaking process. My suggestion is to reformulate policy in terms of outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people - as distinct from corporations, government bodies or billionaires. Social Policy Bonds would do that, and they would channel market forces into the achievement of these outcomes.

The logical end-point of the alternative - policy made by the rich for the rich - is being played out before us. But even if the political process weren't being subverted by the powerful, our society is so complex that the effects of even well-intentioned policy measures can rarely be identified. Typically, if such identification is attempted at all (which it hardly ever is) there are too many variables, linkages, unquantifiables and time lags to get a handle on cause and effect. As well, there are very few incentives to get policy right. A policy's impact horizon usually extends beyond politicians' time in office, and few bureaucrats work within a system that rewards achievement rather than activity.

A Social Policy Bond regime could change all that. It would create a coalition of people and organizations whose interests were exactly congruent with those of ordinary people, and who would be motivated to monitor continuously how efficient and effective were their initiatives.

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