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Thursday, 31 January 2013

LSE Gets It: More Pragmatism, Less Politics

Having recently made the same point, I'm encouraged to see the London School of Economics setting out in detail some of the ways in which the UK could benefit if pragmatic political consensus were to replace party-political dogma. 

However, it would be wrong to think that this approach is only needed in the areas of education, infrastructure and innovation, on which the LSE's report focuses in particular. It's a general shift in attitude that is required in every aspect of our lives. 

This doesn't simply mean that politicians and civil servants should adopt a different top-down attitude. It means inverting the institutional narrative altogether. Politicians and the public sector must adopt a pragmatic, bottom-up view of what works and what does not work at the individual level, for the common good. The public sector must monitor and disclose publicly whether - and, if so, how - its activities, regulations and incentives distort all kinds of local and national markets in favour of private and public sector institutions, thereby constraining innovation and competition. Critically, this extends to the wasteful way in which the public sector purchases its own goods and services.

In practical terms, that shift in attitude requires the civil service and politicians to focus on obtaining data, defining problems, measuring their scale, analysing root causes and implementing lasting solutions. After all, hard choices are easier for more people to accept when they can be shown to be driven by harsh reality rather than party political dogma.

While, fortunately, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that this change is already underway as part of longer term trends discussed on this blog, the voices of institutions like the LSE are critical to those trends becoming mainstream behaviour sooner.  Let's hope similar reports follow from others shortly.


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