So. Having decided that first doing no harm is a wise direction in which to proceed, how do we put that into practice? Is there a set of questions or a framework we can use to analyse a plan, or a policy, or a proposal or a piece of legislation in order to assess whether it will first do no harm?
Here’s an idea, let’s ask four simple questions:
- Does it put All Of Us First?
- Does it help realise all of our human rights?
- Is it based on evidence?
- Do we know if it works and are there unintended consequences?
Nobody is suggesting that ordinary citizens can become policy experts on every topic under the sun, but a central premise of many of the new social movements springing up in Scotland (such as Women for Independence, Commonweal, and Radical Independence Campaign) is that citizens regularly can and do have something valid and important to say – not just about themselves, but about the programs of government more generally.
These four questions are easily understood and can cut to the heart of many issues. There will always be a role for subject specialists and academics whose knowledge is built up over tens of years rather than tens of minutes. But we the people, if we are willing to put in some time and effort, can also grasp the fundamentals of many aspects of public policy and play a role in influencing it to help, or at least do no harm.