In our complex societies, the alternative to coherent, meaningful, goals expressed in numbers are incoherent, meaningless goals expressed in numbers. That's bad enough, but there are times when numerical targets are devised such that they are not just devoid of meaning, but work in ways contrary to their ostensible intention. Here is one recently reported example:
Pinellas Sheriff’s Office boosts its rape stats without solving cases, Allison Ross, 'Tampa Bay Times', 5 January
The case for Social Policy Bonds rest on two pillars. One is the channelling of market forces into the achievement of our goals. The other, though, is the precise definition of these goals. For any quantitative measures of progress, our goals should not only be meaningful to ordinary people. They should be ends in themselves or inextricably linked to those ends. They need to be broad and long term, so that solving one problem can't occur simply by creating others, or shifting the problem into another region, or kicking the can down the road.
So how would Social Policy Bonds deal with rape? One way forward could be to target for reduction - nationally - the numbers of people in anonymous surveys who respond 'yes' when asked whether they have been raped. That could form one of an array of indicators, which could include some that are currently used. All such indicators would have to fall within a prescribed range for a sustained period before the bonds would be redeemed. Choosing these indicators wouldn't be simple. But what is the alternative?
For more about Social Policy Bonds see SocialGoals.com