Friday, 28 January 2011

Justice vs the Bischoff report

I think it's fair to say that for many Labour supporters, especially those of us with an interest in finance, the Bischoff report on the future of financial services that came out in 2009 was a bit embarrassing. I think someone characterised it as 'finance telling stories about finance', which just about nailed it, and it is striking how inward-looking it was. In a previous era a Labour government would surely have made sure that a review of such potential importance would at least include a few of our own people, see the Wilson Committee for example.

Anyway, much as I have tried to erase Bischoff from my memory, it came to mind recently when I was reading a paper about justice and self-interest in an excellent collection called Beyond Self-Interest (I highly recommend this for those of you depressed by public choice types, lots of good stuff in it). The particular paper, by Tom Tyler (top ref here), has a section dealing with the aspects of procedure which determine whether citizens accept that a legal authority is fair. He argues that they are as follows -

Opportunity to participate in the decision
Neutrality of the decision-making process (ie neutral, unbiased decision-makers)
Interpersonal factors - being treated politely and with respect
Motivation - are decision-makers motivated to be 'fair'?
Outcomes - do they consider the decisions to be fair

Now it's not a perfect fit, but it seems to me that we could apply these criteria to things like the Bischoff review too, and doing so probably explains why they leave many of us feeling frustrated. No opportunity to participate, a group of decision-makers we would not consider neutral or unbiased or motivated to be fair, and the 'status quo' outcomes strike us as unfair. Next time we get in power and have to deal with financial reform we should bear these kinds of procedural issues in mind.

PS - makes you worry about Vince's short-termism review too, doesn't it?

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