Just doing something

This is how politics works….instead of actually testing things out to see what works in pilots and then going and doing these things on a larger scale, things get done and paid for on the basis that just doing something, anything, makes politicians look good.

It concludes that ministers have "spent large sums of money on social experiments to reduce health inequalities – but we do not know whether these experiments have worked or whether the money has been well spent."

Dozens of schemes were critiqued in the report. They include the £3bn Sure Start project launched in 1998 to provide one-stop childcare, educational, medical and social help for the poorest young families, and later expanded to all social groups, despite doubts about whether the initiative was effective.

Other projects include Healthy Schools, a multi-billion initiative to promote healthy eating and exercise to children, an \’expert patient\’ programme to teach people how to manage chronic illnesses, and most recently, £30 million pumped into creating "Healthy Towns" which promote exercise.

More than 10 years since many of the projects were introduced, there is little proof they are working, the report says.

The MPs warn: "More public money must not be wasted on ineffective and possibly damaging interventions" but say one of the latest Government initiatives, Healthy Towns, already appears to be repeating the same mistakes.

In November, ten areas were promised millions to develop cycling, walking, healthy eating and green spaces as part of an anti-obesity drive.

Their experiments will include a "loyalty card" which rewards people for going to keep-fit classes, weight-loss clubs or going for a run.

The scheme being tried in Manchester will give people points which could be redeemed for food, sports equipment or gym sessions.

Because the money was given to 10 areas which drew up the most impressive bids, rather than a random selection of towns, it will never be possible to determine whether the £30 million scheme works, or whether the areas were already more likely than others to succeed in efforts to combat obesity, the report warns.

Nevertheless, if the pilots appear to succeed, they are likely to form the basis of a national programme.

Let\’s assume that you really did buy into the idea that we should be ruled by technocrats. That those Wise Men in Whitehall really do know what is best for us. Well, if you do buy into this then you need to also be arguing that they should be using scientific methods to decide what is indeed best for us. Proper pilot programmes, rigorous cost benefit analyses and so on. So that we can in fact determine whether these various schemes are indeed what is best for us.

As these are not done, we cannot decide whether they are what is best for us and that case for government by technocrats fails: because the technocrats are not acting like technocrats.

They have become simply ideological partisans splurging our money on their unsupported phantasmal prejudices.

In which case, government of us, by us, without the central direction sounds like a much better idea.


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