11 September 2013

Policy as if party politics is the only thing that matters

Elizabeth Drew writes about US politics:
In 2009, for the first time, defeat of the incoming president in the next election became the opposition party’s explicit governing principle. If that meant blocking measures to improve the economy, or preventing the filling of important federal offices to keep the government running, so be it. Wrecking became the order of the day. Confrontation became the goal in itself. Now the rightward trend in Republican politics is feeding on itself, becoming even more extreme until the preposterous becomes conceivable. The stranglehold on our politics, Elizabeth Drew, 'New York Review of Books' dated 26 September
It's the logical outcome of a political system subordinated entirely to existing institutions. Every organization - political, religious, educational or whatever - has as its over-riding aim that of self-perpetuation. In their resistance to reform the biggest and most powerful of these organizations do great damage. Sadly, the record of the sort of revolution needed to release the stranglehold of organizations as dominant as the two US political parties is not encouraging.

Here's another approach: instead of organizing our policymaking around the whims and caprices of political parties and their principal funders, why not focus on society's needs? And reward people who help achieve them? That is the underlying principle of Social Policy Bonds. Under a bond regime, organizations would no doubt come into being, but their structure, composition and all their activities would be entirely subordinated to the social and environmental outcomes that people want to see. The current system is broken. Party politics has taken over, at the expense of society. I have no doubt that change will occur; let's hope it's along the lines of a Social Policy Bond regime, which would channel market incentives into the achievement of society's goals, rather than those of the political party dinosaurs.

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