21 September 2015

The root causes of war: don't bother

A Social Policy Bond regime makes inescapable the need to think about what we want to achieve. This should be an essential discipline, but in some instances it's never followed. There's much obfuscation - deliberate or not - and far too much attention given to identifying supposed 'root causes' at the expense of effective policy.

Take violent political conflict. It's still going on, killing, maiming and making homeless millions of people every year. The numbers so affected might be falling, but that says nothing (short pdf) about possible major violent future events. We could spend years analysing past outbreaks of war, but still never get close to identifying root causes in ways that forestall future outbreaks. Society is just too complex, diverse and fast-changing. Policymakers should begin by specifying society's desired outcomes, rather than distracting or indulging ourselves by trying to identify root causes - except perhaps for simple, relatively static, policy environments.

A bond regime wouldn't try to identify the root causes of war, which are a moving target anyway. Instead it would start by specifying exactly the outcomes we want to achieve, and then injecting market incentives into achieving those outcomes. Conflict Reduction Bonds are the means by which I propose we begin to end all war for all time. It's not idealism. It's giving incentives to motivated people to find solutions, rather than simply to turn up to work for a bureaucracy, corrupt or not.

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