Whose analyses, explanations or remedies can you trust? One of the most valuable insights to be gleaned from a pukka crisis is how inexpert the experts are. It was Irving Fisher, the great Professor of Economics at Yale University, who declared: “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” He said that on 15 October 1929.
Hearing after-the-event pronouncements of most experts is about as useful as heeding squawks of headless chickens. It is therefore salutary to realise that our own perceptions are at least as valid as those of the gurus. After all, if they haven’t a clue, what better than to rely on our innate sense of what’s going on?
How thin is the veneer of acquired professionalism when shown up to be no better than crafted guesswork.
We, to whom it is happening, are untainted by the need to self-justify, to excuse or defend how we got it so completely wrong, why we didn’t see it coming, let alone acknowledge our own ignorant contribution to the chaotic mix. How thin is the veneer of acquired professionalism when shown up to be no better than crafted guesswork.
To us, it is obvious that the explosion in public sector profligacy over the past decade had no solid funding behind it. We could see that the wholesale spawning of uselessly intrusive power bases, whose preening supremos are paid fantasy-level salaries would, like every unbridled extravagance, lead to a vengeful post-binge hangover.
Who pays for all this?
The willfully blind cannot see even the most basic truth that only private sector wealth generation provides the nation’s gross domestic product. Value added in the private sector is the sole source of government tax revenues. Public sector employees think they pay tax, but they don’t. The whole of their “gross” pay comes out of taxes contributed by the private sector. Government, as employer, is merely the agency that effects the sleight of hand which perpetuates the illusion.
Once upon a time public sector employees, regardless of rank, acknowledged the reality of their status by signing off every letter “Your obedient servant”. How insidiously the roles have been reversed!
As ever, it is the perversion of language that hides this corrosive agenda. Whole departments are now dedicated to “person-centred planning”. We have “community outreach services” for the deaf and blind, sorry – the “sensorily impaired”. We have “user-led focus groups”, “involvement helplines”, “impact assessment teams”, “consumer audits” and “service models that focus on empowerment, enablement and brokerage”. Oh, and heaven help us, the taxpayers, who pay for all this folderol, are now “customers”.
The ravages wrought by this travesty on the ordinary meaning of words is nothing less than an assault on our traditions, heritage and culture, perpetrated throughout the country by committees of local government locusts whose sole aim is to invent new ways of masking their uselessness.
Cutting out the waste
So when we, the victims of a parasitic bureaucracy, reflect on the fact that a record 60% of the taxes we contribute are absorbed by public sector expenditure, the burning political question of where to cut spending is easily resolved: just cut the spending that should never, in a sane world, have been incurred in the first place.
A former regional director in the Ministry of Works, Leslie Chapman, wrote a splendid book called “Your Disobedient Servant”, a graphic account of his own investigations into the labyrinthine practices of public finance. He would famously march into a government department and demand to know what every person in the room was doing – NOW!
Chapman’s study identified four features that underpinned irredeemable waste throughout the public services: (i) absence of any cost/benefit analysis that, in the private sector, would cause the activity in question to be scrapped immediately; (ii) absence of any genuine accountability by individuals or organizations; (iii) job security that bestows immunity from personal consequences; and (iv) a pervasive, miasmic inertia called “the Departmental View”. He wrote that exactly 33 years ago.