Complexity science - made possible by modern analytical and computational advances - is changing the way we think about social systems and social theory. Unfortunately, economists' policy models have not kept up and are stuck in either a market fundamentalist or government control narrative. While these standard narratives are useful in some cases, they are damaging in others, directing thinking away from creative, innovative policy solutions. Complexity and the Art of Public Policy: Solving Society's Problems from the Bottom Up outlines a new, more flexible policy narrative, which envisions society as a complex evolving system that is uncontrollable but can be influenced.
David Colander and Roland Kupers describe how economists and society became locked into the current policy framework, and lay out fresh alternatives for framing policy questions. Offering original solutions to stubborn problems, the complexity narrative builds on broader philosophical traditions, such as those in the work of John Stuart Mill, to suggest initiatives that the authors call "activist laissez-fair" policies. Colander and Kupers develop innovative bottom-up solutions that, through new institutional structures such as for-benefit corporations, channel individuals' social instincts into solving societal problems, making profits a tool for change rather than a goal. They argue that a central role for government in this complexity framework is to foster an ecostructure within which diverse forms of social entrepreneurship can emerge and blossom.
David Colander is professor of economics at Middlebury College and the author of The Making of an Economist, Redux (Princeton). Roland Kupers is an associate fellow in the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford. He is the coauthor of The Essence of Scenarios: Learning from the Shell Experience.
Page 262: We need to get even closer to John Dewey's (1916) vision a century ago: "education is not preparation for life, it is life itself" (p.239). In short, the meaning of educational change has evolved from discovering meaning to creating meaningfulness.
Thirty-five years ago, The meaning of Education Change had a one-level message: If people don't find meaning in reform, it can never have an impact. There is now a much more comprehensive confirmation of this stance. Cognitive scientists have made it powerfully clear that learning is meaning making, which requires a radically new way of approaching learning -- one that guides the development of individual minds through many minds working together.
Just as learning will go nowhere if educators do not have a deep theoretical understanding of the first principles of pedagogy, improvement will not happen if leaders and others do not have a deep theoretical grasp of the first principle of change -- what I have called theories of action. Theories of pedagogy and theories of action must be integrated again and again in each action setting.
Exiting strategies will not het us to where we need to go if we want large-scale, lasting reform. In this sense the research can be misleading. If research shows, for example, that successful schools have school principals with "vision," it would be wrong to think that getting more principals with vision is the answer (or, if you prefer, it would be wrong to think that you could multiply their numbers). The answer to large-scale reform is not to try to emulate the characteristics of the minority who are getting somewhere under present conditions; if the conditions stay the same, we will always have only a minority who can persist (for short periods of time) against many odds. Rather, we must change existing conditions so that it is normal and possible for majority of people to move forward.
Financing Health and Education for All was published in Project Syndicate, May 31 2016.
NEW YORK – In 2015, around 5.9 million children under the age of five, almost all in developing countries, died from easily preventable or treatable causes. And up to 200 million young children and adolescents do not attend primary or secondary school, owing to poverty, including 110 million through the lower-secondary level, according to a recent estimate. In both cases, massive suffering could be ended with a modest amount of global funding.
Children in poor countries die from causes – such as unsafe childbirth, vaccine-preventable diseases, infections such as malaria for which low-cost treatments exist, and nutritional deficiencies – that have been almost totally eliminated in the rich countries. In a moral world, we would devote our utmost effort to end such deaths.
In fact, the world has made a half-hearted effort. Deaths of young children have fallen to slightly under half the 12.7 million recorded in 1990, thanks to additional global funding for disease control, channeled through new institutions such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
When I first recommended such a fund in 2000, skeptics said that more money would not save lives. Yet the Global Fund proved the doubters wrong: More money prevented millions of deaths from AIDS, TB, and malaria. It was well used.
The reason that child deaths fell to 5.9 million, rather to near zero, is that the world gave only about half the funding necessary. While most countries can cover their health needs with their own budgets, the poorest countries cannot. They need about $50 billion per year of global help to close the financing gap. Current global aid for health runs at about $25 billion per year. While these numbers are only approximate, we need roughly an additional $25 billion per year to help prevent up to six million deaths per year. It’s hard to imagine a better bargain.
Similar calculations help us to estimate the global funding needed to enable all children to complete at least a high-school education. UNESCO recently calculated the global education “financing gap” to cover the incremental costs – of classrooms, teachers, and supplies – of universal completion of secondary school at roughly $39 billion. With current global funding for education at around $10-15 billion per year, the gap is again roughly $25 billion, similar to health care. And, as with health care, such increased global funding could effectively flow through a new Global Fund for Education.
Thus, an extra $50 billion or so per year could help ensure that children everywhere have access to basic health care and schooling. The world’s governments have already adopted these two objectives – universal health care and universal quality education – in the new Sustainable Development Goals.
An extra $50 billion per year is not hard to find. One option targets my own country, the United States, which currently gives only around 0.17% of gross national income for development aid, or roughly one-quarter of the international target of 0.7% of GNI for development assistance.
Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom each give at least 0.7% of GNI; the US can and should do so as well. If it did, that extra 0.53% of GNI would add roughly $90 billion per year of global funding.
The US currently spends around 5% of GDP, or roughly $900 billion per year, on military-related spending (for the Pentagon, the CIA, veterans, and others). It could and should transfer at least $90 billion of that to development aid. Such a shift in focus from war to development would greatly bolster US and global security; the recent US wars in North Africa and the Middle East have cost trillions of dollars and yet have weakened, not strengthened, national security.
A second option would tax the global rich, who often hide their money in tax havens in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Many of these tax havens are UK overseas territories. Most are closely connected with Wall Street and the City of London. The US and British governments have protected the tax havens mainly because the rich people who put their money there also put their money into campaign contributions or into hiring politicians’ family members.
The tax havens should be called upon to impose a small tax on their deposits, which total at least $21 trillion. The rich countries could enforce such a tax by threatening to cut off noncompliant havens’ access to global financial markets. Of course, the havens should also ensure transparency and crack down on tax evasion and corporate secrecy. Even a deposit tax as low as 0.25% per year on $21 trillion of deposits would raise around $50 billion per year.
Both solutions would be feasible and relatively straightforward to implement. They would underpin the new global commitments contained in the SDGs. At the recent Astana Economic Forum, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev wisely called for some way to tax offshore deposits to fund global health and education. Other world leaders should rally to his call to action.
Our world is immensely wealthy and could easily finance a healthy start in life for every child on the planet through global funds for health and education. A small shift of funds from wasteful US military spending, or a very small levy on tax havens’ deposits – or similar measures to make the super-rich pay their way – could quickly and dramatically improve poor children’s life chances and make the world vastly fairer, safer, and more productive. There is no excuse for delay.