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Clear, objective, explicit. Pick any two.


I'm not talking about regulation. I'm talking about stating explicit political goals and monitoring progress towards them, or away from them.

Currently the banks have their cake, and they don't just eat it they sell it over and over.

They can state fuzzy goals like "low inflation", they can move the goal posts that define how inflation is calculated, they can enforce policy that is supposed to influence inflation, and they can shrug and say "Oops - we didn't see that coming" when that policy doesn't work.

Regulation isn't the problem here. Neoclassical brain rot is.

But when I'm making policy proposals, I don't make them in terms of the end point I'd like to see. I make them in terms of the institutions and policy tools that actually exist and are available to policymakers, and check that they are consistent with the end point I'd like to see.

And what happens when you not only don't get the policy you want, but you do get policies which are clearly destructive to the policy you want?

Well, if the (proper function of) the Civil Service is essentially strategic planning, which no-one of sound mind will presumably dispute, then couldn't you say the same thing for it?

No, because the proper function of the Civil Service is implementation, not strategy. It's not the job of the Civil Service to decide whether a high speed rail line should be built. It's the job of the Civil Service to try to get it built as cheaply and reliably as possible once the decision to build it has been made by ministers.

Yes and no. Courts are not democratically accountable in the conventional sense.

On most political science courses, courts are considered an explicit part of the machinery of government. If there's a constitution, the role of the courts is usually defined in it, typically on the basis of checks and balances. Voters don't elect judges, but there is a clear relationship between courts and elected houses.

Banks are not considered an explicit part of the machinery of government.

The original role of the Bank of England was coin counting and bill settling. It had no other function. Currently in most countries there is no explicit constitutional relationship between banks and the other parts of the government machine. The central bank may be mentioned, but the rest of the industry won't be.

And yet we find that banks - not just the central bank, but industry figures in general - have more influence on policy than voters, courts, elected assemblies or individual ministers.

So I'll say again: this should be considered a privilege, it should be made explicit, and if banks want to play the policy game the most useful thing a democracy can do is to define their role explicitly and make them explicitly accountable - not in the sense of being required to send a letter to the Chancellor, as the Bank of England currently is, and not in the sense of regulation, but in the sense of having the effectiveness and wisdom of their policy choices formally debated, questioned and tested in public - to destruction, if need be.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 06:20:31 PM EST
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