29 September 2013

Target crime, not recidivism

I've done a short piece on my main website about why I think Social Policy Bonds must be tradeable. In this they differ crucially from Social Impact Bonds. Because they can't be traded, SIBs must target fairly narrow objectives, and ones with relatively short lead times. This makes them easier to try out and, unlike Social Policy Bonds, SIBs have actually been issued. In the US and the UK SIBs have been issued that target recidivism. There are numerous problems with this, most of which are discussed by Theodore Dalrymple, who also succinctly points out their most important flaw: 
The public wants to be protected against crime, not against recidivism... What Does It Mean To ‘Punish’ Syria?, Theodore Dalrymple, 'Library of Law and Liberty', 8 September
Tradeability sounds esoteric, but it's not. It's a fundamental distinction, and one with large consequences: under a Social Policy Bond regime we can target exactly what we want to achieve; under a SIB regime we can aim at solving only narrow problems that are short term in nature. This means that they fail to capture the public imagination and perhaps even more importantly, lend themselves far more readily to being gamed or manipulated. My hope is that they don't discredit the whole notion of channelling self-interest into the achievement of broad social and environmental goals.

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