Ed, moralism never changed behaviour, creating healthier environments a better bet

1 Oct

Great to hear Ed Miliband talk about socialising business, but his populist appeal to reward those who do good as moral citizens but not ‘feckless families’, is worrying and smacks of pre-war nostalgia.

I haven’t blogged for over a month because of a carpal tunnel operation and am still finding typing and writing difficult. However, frustrated by the serious lack of social psychology in public reform debate and the continuing reference to individual choice as the basis for behaviour change, irritates me no end. Its easy been ‘rational’ and ‘moral’ when your ‘well off’ and/or content; it is a lot harder to make good decisions when you feel you have no future and are surrounded by  ‘consumerism, wealth and justifications of why society owes you. It is amazing the number of the chief executives who feel like victims and earn over £100K.

The reason why some of us are more interested in locality eco-systems and new forms of governance than behaviour change , is because without an alignment between people’s lives and  ‘systems and governance’, serious behaviour changes amongst bankers or offenders is unlikely to take place.

People’s behaviour is influenced by cultures,  rules and government frameworks which have become unbalanced by expectations of immediate return, financially and personally. Individual rights have become confused with immediate gratification.

Of course everyone is responsible for how they behave in society, but I have learned from a long involvement in public service innovation, if you really want to embed  more respectful, egalitarian attitudes then these need to be reinforced by the wider system, in training, recruitment, promotion and that people need the space and time to develop. Changing significant behaviour is not the same as ‘nudging’ someone to drive slower, but of persuading them they have a future and that it will be better for them when they get a little organised,  because they do not any longer have to grab what they can when they  can.

The governance role is not the same as the individual’s role. From Margaret Thatcher,  onwards political leaders in government have been acting as if government is just like running a business or a family, it isn’t.  Humanising politicians may be a good thing – but the point of social governance is go beyond the individual and set governance frameworks for all of us, that are inclusive and fair. 

There is  a category confusion amongst politicians about personal roles and  their role in government. Being faithful to your wife may be a sign of a ‘good man’ but those in government surely must demonstrate  more than being faithful. Personally I would feel a lot happier if politicians spent more time thinking about how to create the conditions for a healthier society rather than acting as referee on what social activities the rest of us should get involved in.

Unfortunately, the press smell out stories of individual failure, hacking phones is not the only symtom of  a purient press, and now is the time to challenege the media as well as the ‘red-tops’. Why is the BBC showing pictures of an MP’s wife crawling in the garden of the husband’s mistress’s house for a kitten?  This is is the News not Candid Camera. Everyone knows that when your relationship breaks down you become a little ‘potty’. This was demeaning for the BBC as well as for the woman, someone not in the public eye and already humiliated.

In the US the dreaded word is the ‘r’ word ( regulation) and I am not a fan of unnecessary regulation , but big issues like carbon capture, public health and inequalities need regulation. The Smoking Ban by New Labour probably did more for public health than any other intervention by New Labour.

What we need is some serious analysis of how existing regulations and law affects short termism in investment and business ? There is growing interest in how to  support (locality) eco-systems for those in business, universities and public agencies wanting to incentivise social goals in the longer term  and new forms of ‘social’ business.

This is about of creating environments where social relationships are valued as the foundation for sustainable growth and reducing inequalities, to only talk of behaviour change is to perpetuate the notion that government doesn’t matter.


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