16 March 2016

Money isn't everything

In chats with friends about deploying Social Policy Bonds to counter religious or ideological extremism, I'm often told that the fanatics just won't respond to financial incentives so, the reasoning goes, a bond issue aimed at reducing conflict would be unlikely to succeed. I think the premise is correct: fanatics are motivated entirely by their beliefs. Money doesn't come into it. But I think the conclusion is false: financial incentives can work to eliminate conflict; fanatics are found in any bar, campus or on any street corner. Without backing, either direct or indirect, from others, they do not ascend into positions of influnce. The further one goes from the fanatical centre, the more one will find supporters of the extremists who are amenable to financial incentives. Social Policy Bonds can motivate these people to withdraw their support from the fanatics and, possibly, to channel their support into goals that are more congruent with those of society. A bond regime wouldn't change the beliefs of the extremists, but it would decouple them from positions of influnence. At its most simple level, a bond regime could act as a counterbalance to all the financial incentives that exist to create and continue conflict: those that motivate, at some level, arms manufacturers and brokers, and the interests of those who think they will gain if the conflict resolves in their favour. Money isn't everything, but Social Policy Bonds targeting conflict for reduction could channel the urge to acquire it into socially beneficial activities.

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