There are doubtless many lessons in many different areas of public policy that will be drawn from the experience around the world of dealing with the COVID 19 crisis. This blog looks at lessons around the diffusion of public policy.
Since the Thatcher/Reagan reforms of the 1970s and 1980s and the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been an orthodox belief in favour of allowing pricing signals to guide markets. Prices serve a ‘discovery’ purpose, steering markets to produce what people want and providing incentives for innovation and change. This orthodoxy is once again under challenge. The goal of decarbonising the global economy and to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or 2060 is leading to a return of ‘command and control’ measures to guide economic choices. The direction is clear from the 'Roadmap' set out by the International Energy Agency in a report in May, 2021. We are likely to hear much more about command and control in November on the occasion of COP 26, the UN follow-up meeting to the 2016 Paris Agreement and the 1992 UN Framework Convention. This blog looks at the return of command and control.
There is a well justified concern about backsliding in democracies. In central Europe the concerns centre on the erosion of the independence of the judiciary; in the US, backsliding has taken the form of a loss of underpinning conventions such as moderation, civility and loser’s consent (see posts of 9/14/2018 & 9/1/2020). Such lapses may just be temporary. However, a lot depends on the diagnosis. This blog looks at different diagnoses.
Brexit represents a failure of the UK’s political elite. It also represents a failure of the EU. The UK was always an awkward member of the EU. Nevertheless, rupture was not intended or sought by either side. Cameron triggered the referendum on membership in order to call the bluff of UKIP and expected to win. It became an act of self-defenestration.
The EU has responded defensively to the UK’s departure. It has stressed the importance of a ‘rules-based’ union where there are no departures from a ‘level playing field’. The rule book has become an end in itself rather than a means to an end. It has established a new relationship with the UK based as much on deterring others from following the UK as on maximising the mutual benefits from close ties. This blog looks at the outlines of a different kind of EU response. It asks whether the departure of a major member suggests that the EU should engage in some introspection and rethinking of the kind of union it wants.
In the COVID 19 pandemic the medical experts gave what they viewed as valid advice to the public on epidemiological grounds, but politicians pronounced on public policy in the light of what they thought would be acceptable to the public. Each felt that they were justified in what they were saying and doing, even though it led to conflicting and confusing signals to the public.
The handling of COVID illustrates how we seem to need some kind of generally applicable discourse, or one authoritative institution, for arriving at public policies that will avoid confusion around what is ‘valid’ or ‘acceptable’ or ‘justified’. This blog looks at the sources of the confusion and the search for a more unified approach.
Brexit itself, and the subsequent 4-year saga on defining the future relationship between the UK and the EU, have been damaging to both the EU and the UK. They represent a failure on the part of both. This blog looks at the roots of the failure in the UK.
In October 2020 a case was brought in a US federal court in Washington DC against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in respect of the Crown Prince’s alleged involvement in the murder of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi in Turkey in 2018. The case was brought in part under the Alien Torts Statute (ATS) that dates from 1789. ATS enables action in US courts against civil wrongs inflicted on non-US citizens outside the US. The ATS is a rare example of a law that specifically provides for effect outside the borders of the country making the law. In general, there is a very long-established presumption on both sides of the Atlantic against ‘extraterritoriality’. This blog looks at that presumption and what is changing it.
When we think about why governments disagree amongst themselves on the international stage, we think automatically in terms of power politics. Old powers wane, new powers rise. Both test the boundaries of what they can do. In part, the assertions of power will show up in territorial disputes, in the formation and dissolution of alliances, and in the use or projection of force. This blog however sets aside disagreements about territory and those that might involve force or weaponry. Instead, it looks at areas of rulemaking such as trade, finance, health and the environment where collective global policies are desirable but where agreement may prove elusive. This space has been referred to as a ‘grey zone’ between unilateralist conduct and fully politically integrated policy making.
The idea that democratic forms of government require ‘checks and balances’ is long established. However, it can be interpreted in different ways. This blog looks at the concept from three different perspectives. From each viewpoint the concept has been eroded. The question is whether we should accept the erosion of checks and balances, or instead, look for new ways of introducing grit into the oyster of collusive forms of government.
COVID 19 has introduced enormous uncertainty into peoples’ lives. Uncertainty about health, about jobs, about their established patterns of living. This blog looks at hypotheses about how such generalised uncertainty might translate into democratic politics.