05 May 2017

I don't know

'I don't know.' How often do we hear this from policymakers? Ask them how they plan to reduce crime, improve the environment or grow the economy and they will talk about things to do with funding allocations, institutional structures, laws, regulations and processes. They will never say 'I don't know.' We could even ask them how they intend to bring peace to the Middle East, to reduce the chances of a nuclear exchange, or to deal with climate change...and they'd still come up with superficially adequate responses. Responses, though, not answers.

Simple goals - sanitation, basic education, satisfying the nutritional needs of children etc - are those for which cause and effect are easy to identify, don't vary much over space, and don't change much over time. A benign and reasonably efficient government knows how to achieve these things. The more complex problems, though - including how to bring about benign and efficient government where it is absent - require a range of approaches to be tried, with only the most efficient being implemented. This is something policymakers don't do very well. Probably no single conventional organisation can do it well, beholden as they are to fixed world views, and the interests (monetary, ideological) of their supporters and employees.

I don't know how to bring about world peace, nor improve a nation's health, nor prevent or mitigate disasters, man-made or natural. I offer no solutions, but I do think that the Social Policy Bond concept is a way of encouraging people to find solutions: a way that channels the market's efficiencies and incentives into all the processes necessary to discover and implement the optimal mix of approaches to solving our complex problems. So, when asked how to solve the world's problems, I answer 'I don't know. However...'

1 comment:

Aze said...

That is so true.