Coventry (UK), 5 June (360info) Advanced economies have largely dealt with poverty, disease, ignorance, sanitation and idleness. It’s time for a new approach.
There is a growing awareness among OECD policymakers that the policy paradigm of the 20th century – which emphasized material prosperity as an overarching goal – is outdated.
A democratic revival and a new social contract are needed, perhaps for a happy country; an upgrade of the welfare state. The times are right for such a revival, with countries grappling with a populist backlash against elite technocratic rule.
Unfortunately, throughout the past forty years of (broadly desirable and effective) technocratic governance across the OECD, experts have enacted massive policy reforms that have largely disengaged from democratic commitment to these reforms Oversight, which makes politicians incapable of carrying out this kind of democratic revival.
Current policies work because, simply put, countries in the global north are rich. Beveridge’s welfare state attempted to address the “five evils” of poverty, disease, ignorance, hygiene, and sloth.
Today’s advanced economies are rich, healthy, educated, clean and employed. A lot of people are having a hard time, but it’s mostly a matter of redistribution, not further growth.
Awareness of this material abundance is intertwined with awareness of the unsustainability of our way of life and the need for a greener political economy.
Figuring out how best to incorporate wellbeing initiatives into public policy starts with addressing the question of what wellbeing is.
Scientists offer different answers depending on their discipline. Psychologists emphasize mental states such as happiness and purpose in life, or the nurturing of basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Developmental practitioners and far-sighted economists focus on “capacity”—happiness means having a wider range of choices from which to choose the life that works best for you.
Philosophers emphasize a set of basic goods, including pleasure, knowledge, virtue, suffrage, and self-actualization.
On a high level, happiness is what makes life great. Defining happiness therefore requires making value judgments, which are the domain of democracy, not science.
The transition to a state of well-being is an opportunity to establish new values around which to organize society and policy. This has to start with politics, not science.
But aside from high-profile cases like Bhutan and New Zealand, politicians describe most well-being public policies as dreary changes in public administration: tweaking outcome measures to pay more attention to sustainability and mental health, and less emphasis on cost savings .
There are benefits to this technocratic focus on high-level indicators and assessment frameworks. 20th century statistics do not capture 21st century progress. But it can also backfire.
Public policy has served a variety of goals beyond income and growth. Its ability to do so is often hampered by the desire of central agencies (notably the treasury and treasury) to control policy according to a narrow set of indicators.
Broadening these ranges from income is welcome, but not if it simply means introducing narrower indicators such as life expectancy, years of schooling and household energy efficiency.
Most public policies are highly relevant, especially service delivery. For example, health concerns in a community might be air pollution along major roads, evening exercise in unsafe parks, and the personality of the local doctor. Life expectancy won’t tell you any of these things.
Locally tailored policy reforms and tailored measures and assessment frameworks are needed.
Citizens affected by policies can consult with practitioners who implement them and with technical experts who analyze them. This results in policies that are legal, enforceable and strict.
Designing indicators for policy rather than distorting policy to accommodate indicators is better suited to the complexities of policymaking. Most public policy is provided by systems—such as health, defense, and social security.
These systems involve dozens of synchronized, interrelated interventions to advance various goals.
Systems differ from the way most scholars conceptualize policy and its evaluation. Scholars have considered discrete interventions, such as funding marriage counseling.
The causal effects of these interventions can be determined experimentally using randomized controlled trials (RCTs). And their effectiveness can be assessed using a cost-benefit analysis (CBA).
Some policies can be implemented this way, but many of them are actively undermined by insisting on RCTs and CBAs as analytical frameworks.
For example, social policy addressing complex disadvantage in the UK has struggled to coordinate the range of services needed to tackle poverty, mental health, homelessness and substance abuse simultaneously, thanks to employment as an outcome indicator.
Thus, narrow conceptualizations of ‘evidence-based policy’ using RCTs and CBAs and public policies of well-being aimed at ‘life expectancy’ or any other high-level goal may have a positive counter-effect on well-being.
Public policy researchers have long noted that this naive attitude in academia about the realities of policymaking hinders the translation of good science into good policy.
A happy nation first and foremost needs democracy and political leadership. The role of scientists in welfare public policy is to improve the quality of policy deliberations within this political project. (360info.org)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)