Finding ways of motivating people to become more self-sufficient and ambitious could help transform our society
If we want a happy, healthy and prosperous nation, we need the policies, tax incentives and penalties which promote these outcomes.
The UK spends £700 billion a year on public expenditure (41 per cent of GDP), with a staggering £200 billion on welfare benefits. Yet we get low productivity from most of our public expenditure compared with other economies, in particular Scandinavia and the Netherlands.
UK indicators for benefit dependency, incarceration, divorce, single parenthood, obesity and deaths from alcohol have increased exponentially in 50 years. This pressure on public services is unsustainable, given slow economic growth rates and increasing demand.
I explore these issues in my book, The Reward Society, by asking: what are we rewarding?
To get the organisation you want, you need to reward the behaviours you want. Banks have known this for years: unfortunately casino capitalism rewarded risk over responsibility, with catastrophic consequences.
Revolutionary thinking is needed to produce a new meritocratic paradigm that encourages thrift, hard work, good health and diet, limited welfare reliance, good education, neighbourliness, civic pride and tolerance.
Clearly citizens who experience hardship or ill health must be included. The hallmark of a just society is its compassion and support for people who are genuinely unable to help themselves. But what about those who could help themselves? Where there is a growing sense of injustice, unfairness and hypocrisy, warning lights start flashing. It is wrong to reward lifestyles that undermine social cohesion.
The Reward Society is based upon my experiences in the public and private sector in America, Europe and China, and helping Irwell Valley Housing Association become an efficient, effective, customer-focused business. We have record attendance (99.5 per cent), re-let times (90 per cent same day re-lets), rent collection (100 per cent) and customer satisfaction (96 per cent).
The Reward Society’s business model is based on rewarding and motivating people to achieve positive outcomes, an approach developed with UK ethical entrepreneur Julian Richer, Bob Armstrong in the US and Dr Gerrit Teunis in Europe.
A meritocracy that has at its core an expectation that people will strive to be successful, self-sufficient, healthy and motivated - and not benefit-dependent, poorly educated and an unnecessary burden on the health service - would save our nation incalculable amounts of time and money and make us all happier.
Dr Tom Manion is chief executive of Irwell Valley Housing Association