[An] effective response to internal industrial decline [in the US] and foreign challengers required major changes in American government as well as industry. It required major improvements in the educational system, aggressive pressure to force incompetent industries to reform, ... and a variety of regulatory changes. But those measures had no focused, powerful, well-financed interest group to lobby for hem. Charles H Ferguson, Predator Nation, May 2012What did those powerful interest groups decide to do? Mr Ferguson continues:
...to start using money to get what they wanted. But only what they wanted, individually - not what the country as a whole needed. Indeed, what was good for their company's profits was quite often bad for the nation.Most voters probably know, at some level, that the politicians have not the slightest interest in the long-term well-being of the nation and its citizens or, rather, that they cannot afford to rule as if they have. The problem is self-reinforcing. It cannot reform itself. The people and the politicians live in different worlds and those worlds are moving away from each other.
Despite recent interest (here for instance), I have no illusions about the likelihood of Social Policy Bonds being issued by national governments, but I will continue to put the idea forward as a possible solution. A bond regime would target outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people: things like better health, lower pollution, or reduced risk of disasters, however caused. By focusing relentlessly on outcomes, rather than the current array of vague or unspecified targets, the bonds could shame governments into catering to the needs of all their citizens, rather than the wealthy and powerful. That's because governments would have explicitly and publicly to declare the outcomes that the bonds would target. And, because political debate would centre on these outcomes, rather than activities, outputs, funding arrangements, laws, regulations, personalities and hairstyles, it's far more likely that ordinary people would participate in the policymaking process. Under a bond regime we, the non-powerful, general public could still, as we are now doing, acquiesce in our tax payments being used to bail out a corrupt financial sector, or subsidies huge industrial and agricultural conglomerates and fossil fuel extraction and consumption. But, in that unlikely event we'd at least be doing so with our eyes open. Even that would be an improvement over the current system built, as it is, on deception.