22 May 2016

What is government for?

Simon Calder writes about the effects of European Union regulation, EC261, which says that airlines must pay at least €250 to every passenger who arrives three hours or more behind schedule. Mr Calder quotes one senior airline executive:
Of course, if we are approaching a three-hour delay, we may decide to accelerate the turn-round by leaving bags behind. When airlines deliberately leave behind your baggage, Simon Calder, 'the Independent', 21 May
He imagines how passenger would react to this announcement from an airline captain:
Only half the bags have been loaded. We can either set off now, and be two hours 55 minutes behind schedule, or wait for another 10 minutes to load the remainder. 
Passengers would vote unanimously to wait another ten minutes. But EC261 makes such an onboard referendum unlikely, stipulating, as it does, "a blunt three-hour boundary between paying out nothing and being exposed to compensation claims amounting to tens of thousands of pounds."

You might think, as I do, that government would do better to leave this sort of micro-management to the market. But every organization, including every government agency, however well-meaning and hard-working, has as its over-arching goal self-perpetuation. Formulating, propagating and enforcing Mickey Mouse micro-objectives like the three-hour deadline doesn't help passengers, still less airlines, but it does promote the unstated (and perhaps even unconscious) goal of government: to expand its role.

A Social Policy Bond regime would be different. it would target broad goals in essential areas, such as health, crime or - at a supra-national level - war. These goals would be meaningful to ordinary people, and the agencies who take on the role of goal-achievement would have a composition and structure that would adapt to changing circumstances and expanding knowledge of the causes and effects of social problems.These organizations would subordinate all their activities to the achievement of society's goals - in stark contrast with our current policymaking system.

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