Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Playing at the weekend

This is a fantastic area of countryside to the West of Exeter. I went walking with some friends on Saturday, and it was lovely: refreshing, beautiful and calming. It made me think about the importance of conserving country- side like this, of managing the transport and planning systems so that people can live close to where they work and travel between them efficiently. We have dysfunctional public transport system, a planning system that is about to be torn apart in the pursuit of unnecessary growth and a government with the inability to take responsibility for anything. If this toxic mix results in us losing views like this, we will have lost something truly valuable.

Part of the problem is that we do not think of the outcomes of policy decisions holistically. Why not demand that rules and laws are prefaced by a statement as to their intent and metrics to measure success? "This bill is intended to ... Measure of success include..." Then we can understand what the authorities are trying to (as opposed to what they say they are trying to do), judge whether their metrics measure the desired outcomes or not, and so objectively hold them to account.

Think of those proposed revisions to planning: are they about economic growth or the protection of the environment? If, as I suspect Gordon Brown would claim, the answer is 'both', how do we balance those two goals? Once we know what it means to succeed at the game, we can analyse the strategies that people will take in playing it.

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