Only government can solve the disturbing environmental and human problems which are by-products of a vigorous. The ethos addresses valuable industries that deliberately or accidentally devastate people's lives while leaving owners and senior managers unaffected.
Science and reason are not new in society: e.g. they are required for military development, and for handling social disasters like epidemics or weather events.
«Solving» here means endorsing and applying a scientific-style approach to in making a choice or plan: i.e. using reason, evidence and inquiry for topics more usually handled with emotion, impulse, and wilfulness.
«Solving» does not mean resolving: i.e. the solution may not work well or at all, and it may produce new problems.
New values and institutions are required to directly confront a profits-dominated mentality.
Allowing brute reality or human suffering to determine political decisions (as distinct from shaping political rhetoric) is usually out of keeping with the culture of the political classes.
Mitterand, asked for the secret of success in politics, answered: "Indifference". Stalin pointed out that: "the death of one person is a tragedy, while the death of a million people is a statistic."
In earlier, politicians simply ignore or even suppress complaints, or respond to demonstrations by making token gestures and offering minimal compensation.
Now, however, with a self-reliant and freer population, the damage and harm caused by big firms gets translated into far stronger pressures from the people for political action.
Political truth is not the truth of pure science, which is non-existent or provisional at best. It is about truth as people live it and experience it daily.
It is about answering questions like:
Problems in society rarely stimulate political action without accompanying social turbulence. Once problems are severe enough to be called a crisis, affected people and campaigning bodies spontaneously emerge, protesting and pressing for State help. Popular awareness builds and often swells the demand for a reasonable resolution.
However, government must be in charge of the pursuit of realistic solutions and their implementation. Why? Government alone has the duty to protect society as a whole, and it alone possesses the power and finance to:
The public is generally aware that power lies with the big corporations and government departments, and so doubts the worth of closed internal investigations. Where the public is aroused—due to evident or emerging social, environmental or cultural damage—solutions need to be determined openly via inquiries which have the following features:
Official… because government needs at least to present the appearance of wanting an inquiry and welcoming the findings.
Independent… because objectivity, impartiality and dispassionate investigation are unrealistic expectations of government.
Public… because acceptability is critical and anything done in camera is liable to be suspected by ordinary people and with good reason.
Expert… because all problems have technical aspects and may require specialist inputs or targeted research investigations.
Multi-perspective… because social problems are complex and diverse groups have differing values and views on them.
Balanced… because many different people and groups are directly or indirectly affected and interested in the outcome.
Fair… because feelings run high and problems are so complex: a senior legal figure is often chosen to be in the Chair.
Legislatures can be tasked to deal with controversial issues via committees of legislators. These can take evidence from and challenge ministers, officials, business chiefs, pressure-group representatives, and other relevant parties. For example, powerful bureaucratic teams may be established to root out corruption. However, because the trail commonly leads back to politicians and other powerful figures, they tend to be suspended once the public furore dies away.
The injunction is simple: resolve existing and emerging social problems in terms of current social values using logic, evidence, knowledge, and expertise. Even if resolution cannot be guaranteed, a practical solution can be reasonably expected.
Any solution must be socially viable, which means finding some balance between numerous criteria that usually conflict:
That conflict often manifests as public protests, social turmoil, and pressure from commercial groups.
Policies emerging from rationalist inquiries allow establishment of constraints and setting of directions for development. However, legislation is less problematic than implementation of policy and its observance, and these issues now become crucial to political credibility.
, operating quasi-independently of the government, are therefore created with the duty to monitor and approve (or countermand) actions in difficult and complex situations in the light of existing policy; and to propose new policy as required. They are particularly significant in handling the emergence of new values within society.
Examples: banking, pollution control, fair competition, environmental protection, new pharmaceuticals, food production, seashore use.
These bodies are overseen by a board of experts and knowledgeable, respected persons, and employ a staff of specialists and officials.
Individuals may become unemployed and lack the reserves to cope—possibly through no fault of their own, as occurs in the down phase of the business cycle.
Governments need to be concerned about turmoil flowing from unemployment and desperation about surviving. The solution is to provide safety nets—the minimum support required. People need to be better off working in order to forestall a culture of welfare dependency.
Excessive inequalities in wealth flowing from inequalities in capability can threaten social equilibrium. So regular reviews to ensure the provision of basic needs like education, health care and housing are also required.
Social problems generate conflicts of all sorts: between large and small firms, between labour unions and employers, between communities, between government and activist groups. The only way these can be resolved is through processes of consultation in which views are aired, noted, respected and integrated as a balanced way forward is determined.
Such consultations should be on-going and distinct from the periodic official inquiries. It represents a necessary conversation between the rulers and the ruled.
Provision of Knowledge:
Government, civic groups, and industry bodies start to collect information relevant to potentially emerging problems. This knowledge can be used for developing effective, timely solutions when appropriate.
A range of public repositories and directories is needed, as well as a central societal statistics agency to organize regular census-taking and collection of useful information. Such a body needs to be independent of political influence if the populace is not to distrust its output.
The Internet, with its search tools, has made access to information far easier and cheaper. Governments at thishave no compunction in distorting and manipulating statistics to justify decisions and deceive the public. However, willing individuals should be able to provide statistics that counter such manipulations.
An accurate and truthful assessment of the situation is essential to remedy a «tragedy of the commons» or to deal with any problems facing society. Given the common recourse to deception, outright lies, disinformation, distortion and suppression of the facts, the unmasking of falsehoods and the expression ofare socially important.
The psychological world demanded byon top of the is hard. In any social problem: •multiple values are pervasive, •competition exists, •uncertainty reigns, •time is critical, •information is scant, and •numerous factors (some unknown) are relevant.
The proper requirements are to:
This is a substantial demand. Its fulfilment requires the virtue of. In turn, recognizes the impossibility of knowing or prediction. So it advises self-restraint and humility at all times—perhaps especially when everything seems to be going well or choices seem obvious.
Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 27 Mar 2014