19 May 2017

New concepts in Mickey Mouse micro-targets

What determines the targets that our governments aim at? Something that sounds good? Something that they're already measuring? Something that they know they can easily achieve without doing anything? One thing's clear: whether the goal is big (GDP, net immigration, inflation) or small (waiting times at hospitals), the goals chosen have nothing to do with the well-being of the citizens our governments are supposed to represent.Two examples recently cited:
Fifteen years ago police in Hokkaido, in Japan’s sparsely populated north, conspired with yakuza gangsters to smuggle guns into the country so they could meet quotas for finding them. As crime dries up, Japan’s police hunt for things to do, 'the Economist, dated 20 May
Some road space rationing scheme have had perverse knock-on effects. According to some reports, people in Mexico and Beijing have started buying second vehicles with different licence plates to get around restrictions. Often the second car will be cheap and more polluting. Cutting through the smog: What to do to fight air pollution, Nic Fleming, 'New Scientist', 3 May
In our complex societies quantitative targets are probably necessary. But these targets need to be both meaningful to ordinary people and inextricably linked to, improvements in well-being. The alternative to such indicators are the sort of Mickey Mouse micro-targets, like those above, that actually conflict with societal well-being. Social Policy Bonds would clarify what exactly as a society we want to believe. Targets would be the subject of debate in which the public can participate. They'd be broad and relevant, comprehensible and explicit. Targets are too important to be left to the interests of those with an interest in keeping them narrow, short term and irrelevant (at best) to the nation's well-being.

No comments: