Wellbeing-Enhancing Public Policy - Extensions
Recognising the prevalence of radical uncertainty and complexity, in a world populated by billions of individuals pursuing improvements in their very diverse valued lives, has a fundamental impact on the policy setting. There needs to be no change in the objective of improving individual and community wellbeing on a sustained basis. The main impact is on the focus of public policy, as well as the choice of policy instruments and implementation mechanisms. The search for solutions to optimisation problems is replaced by a focus on investing in resilience – characterised by adaptability of the environment, society, and economy – to emerging situations that cannot be predicted or controlled. At the system level, resilience rests on two foundations: protecting comprehensive wealth from catastrophes, while at the same time nourishing human inventiveness – natural inquiry through experimentation (see Mokyr 2016). At the centre of the enquiry are the ecosystems within which individuals and communities live and operate, including the institutions that shape their incentives. This revised policy framework embraces localism, experimentation, small steps in implementation, reversibility and fast failures, and planning on surprises. It is built around the benefits of decentralisation and emergence. Collective wellbeing is pursued not by searching for investment levers that will enhance well-defined social outcomes, but rather by making it easier for people to pursue the varied lives they value, with no pre-defined desired aggregate social outcomes. “What works” is defined by communities, not by public servants, although the latter can play a constructive and critical role in helping communities achieve the outcomes they value.