06 November 2019

It's all about outcomes

From Harper's Magazine

Percentage of [US] Democratic voters who cite a personal characteristic as the most important factor in selecting a president : 28 
Who cite a policy consideration : 27

Harper's Index, Harper's Magazine, November, derived from Pew Research Center (Washington).
What could we expect? Policymaking is so removed from ordinary people that we have little else to go on, other than what can be seen in the media. We choose our politicians according to their perceived personality. Promises, rhetoric come into it but outcomes? Not at all. This isn't specific to the US. The gap between policymakers and the public grows ever wider. We focus on crises in the same way as we choose our politicians: according to their profile in the media. Slow-moving, complex crises, like climate change or the ballooning of public and private debt, deteriorate over the years, until they manifest themselves unequivocally forms that can be covered in a short news bulletin. There's an inevitability about this, and it's perfectly explicable in a world in which we are bombarded by information. But it is not efficient, because resources are devoted to avoiding images of failure, rather than actual failure. Serious but non-visual crises, as we have seen in finance and the environment, slowly and undramatically gather pace until their effects become unavoidable. By that time, of course, it might be too late to do much about them, even with enormous quantities of spending.

A Social Policy Bond regime could be different. It would target society's social and environmental goals, such as dealing with climate change, extending nuclear peace, the mitigation of any sort of human catastrophe, however caused. We need to be given the chance to express our political views in the form of desirable outcomes, rather than in terms of personality.

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