19 May 2014

Eradicating war without blueprints

Richard English writes:

[T]o pursue the eradication of war would be as naïve as to pursue human or moral perfection; the effective curtailment of particular wars, or specific war-time brutality, almost certainly depends instead on recognizing our appalling capacity for (and even our historical tendency towards) justifying and practising violent atrocity. ...
For the prospect of establishing human behaviour along lines guided too closely by idealized blueprints probably exaggerates human capacity for improvement. Modern War, Richard English, 2013
I don't agree with the first clause; 'naive' implies that eradicating war will be impossible to achieve. I do agree that being 'guided too closely by idealized blueprints' will, in itself, not be sufficient to eradicate war, though it might be one necessary approach. This is where the Social Policy Bond principle enters the picture: we aim to eradicate war; we raise funding to achieve that goal, but we do not ourselves draw up blueprints as to how to achieve our goal, nor do we try identify who might best achieve it. Instead we issue Conflict Reduction Bonds (or Middle East Peace Bonds, or World Peace Bonds). These are no idealized blueprints: they are means by which motivate people to solve mankind's most grievous social problem.

Much that is good in this world has come about almost randomly, often as a by-product of some persons' pursuit of short-term financial gain. Or only after calamitous experience and exhaustion. I think we can do better: we can supply incentives for people to achieve social goals and let the market - the best way of allocating resources ever discovered - decide which approaches are best and which should be terminated. Idealized blueprints won't always work and, as Mr English also says, "most of our attempts to set out prophylactic measures and structures against modern war have seemed (and continue to appear) frequently doomed to blood-spattered failure." But sometimes, some of these approaches and institutions do actually work. A bond regime would encourage people to persist in those circumstances, and to explore, and refine other approaches too. I don't think that's naive.

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