27 September 2016

Policymaking is incomprehensible to outsiders

Lee Drutman writes:
The organizations that are most likely to be the winners in the modern policymaking process are those that:
•  are able to lobby on multiple issues over multiple years;
•  can pay the increasingly high price of entry necessary for effective participation; and
•  gain from policy complexity, both because it gives them more opportunities to insert narrow provisions with limited public scrutiny and because they are more capable of supplying expertise to overworked staffers.
More and more, the only organizations that are capable of marshaling the resources to do all these effectively are business organizations,—both individual companies and the associations that represent them. The business of America is lobbying, Lee Drutman, 2016
I've long railed against the increased complexity of policymaking in western countries. It is now too complicated for ordinary people to follow. So, on the one hand we have government and big business in a mutually enabling relationship, and on the other we have ordinary people and small enterprises. The gap is widening and so we see rising and potentially dangerous levels of alienation and cynicism.

Social Policy Bonds could narrow that gap. Ordinary people understand broad national or global goals, such as better health, a cleaner environment, or world peace. Governments could target these goals by issuing Social Policy Bonds. The current system is arcane, long-winded and incomprehensible to outsiders - presumably by accident rather than design. It's focussed on process and decisions about funding and organizational composition and structure. It rewards activity, rather than outcomes.

Achieving goals such as better health or world peace would in most cases mean that governments relinquish control over those organizations that are currently charged with achieving these goals. Governments, naturally, are not keen to do so willingly, so perhaps the first issuers of Social Policy Bonds will be philanthropists, non-governmental organizations or members of the public: or some coalition of all three, who would put up the funds necessary to redeem the bonds. I discuss the transition to a Social Policy Bond regime here and in chapter 4 of my book.

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