1 November 2010 Leave a comment
Is Lib Dem policy and philosophy getting all mixed up? Are we confusing incentives when it comes to human nature? Have we not fully understood the realities of combining the different strands of our party? Economic and social liberalism have produced many benefits in their own right and the instinct to combine them has produced some very interesting politics. Now we are in Government these policy ideas may be well tested, however, we need to continue the search for better policy initiatives and ideas.
Currently the thinking has very much been around creating incentives. On the micro level there is the Government’s ‘nudge unit’ and on a wider level there is the Government’s pro-choice, pro-business, pro-competition agenda, which gains applause from all areas of life:
Cable’s pro-competition agenda should certainly be applauded – The Guardian
The Lib Dems thinking has indeed been focused on this for years and Vince Cable wrote in the Orange Book that no one really suggests that there should only be one public service (for whatever service) considering how much choice there is in the rest of our lives, and besides choice improves standards. All of which is very true. However, such pro-competition agenda’s are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to working with human nature and only focusing on this will reduce the policy ideas and the results will not be as expected.
Human nature certainly has competitive forces which help us strive for status and resources (for example) and using a choice agenda will utilize this area of our nature. However, it ignores the cooperative forces of our human nature which are equally as powerful and lead us to strive for fairness and reciprocity as well as seek for a group identity.
we’re born with a dual nature, with great potential for selfishness and altruism, greed and generosity, status-seeking and fairness-seeking – Secrets of the Moneylab
The Lib Dems have focused forcefully on the fairness agenda which I believe works well with the cooperative forces of our nature as well as the competition agenda which works with our competitive side. On the face of it this is all well and good. However, the fairness agenda has typically focused on using competition to create this fairness as we have begun to fuse the social and economic liberal philosophies. Again there is no problem in doing this if it creates good results but it fails to tap into the human need to belong or to give something back, the real cooperative forces in our lives.
Focusing on this area of our human nature opens up a whole new approach to policy development. The Big Society may be a way to achieve this, as it the Lib Dems fairness agenda. But people have to see tangible ways of having these needs met or they won’t believe it. Just look at this recent jibe at Nick Clegg.
But there are examples all over the world where this area has been the focus and it has been working. I have been documenting some of them on my blog under Collaboration and Collaborative Governance. There are many ways to give people tangible, specific ways of getting involved in their communities, in their government, in their services. There are tangible ways of using people’s energy, wisdom and inventiveness to make this country more cohesive and our country more proud.
In Australia a book was written about how to achieve this in the corporate world it has also been used to improve business. If we are able to have clear policy initiatives and ideas based on social and economic liberalism effectively utilizing both our competitive and cooperative selves, we have a much more powerful program for reform: Choice and Voice, Competition and Collaboration.