Thursday, 27 February 2014

"More power, worse taste"

Something else which struck me, but I didn't have the nerve to mention, was admirably expressed by Richard Godwin in yesterday's Evening Standard (scroll down to end of article):

After many weeks of distressing reports from Kiev comes a little relief. The images of the looted bling on show at the palaces of deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych not only show that the revolution has been successful — they are proof of the moral corruption of his leadership...

Now it’s not as if the world’s media really owe a corrupt, murderous autocrat a fair ride. But I can’t help thinking that if you pointed a camera at the combination of lucre and tat on show in the homes of most heads of state — including our own — you would come to a similar conclusion.

Yup, it seems perfectly fair to me to judge how corrupt a society's rulers are by how well they live and how much wealth they extract merely for co-ordinating and running public services. It's not like they do the real donkey work, that's the teachers, bin men, coppers etc. who do that. Setting a few targets and bossing them around, attending meetings of Heads of State and so on is the easy and fun part.


The Stigler said...

But the thing with people at the top is that they make the changes of policy or investment that affect how all the "little people" work.

So, a politician that tries to destroy the LEAs and replace them with free schools and vouchers is well worth throwing a million quid at, if they get it done because it's chicken feed compared to the benefits.

The trouble is that very few of them are actually worth even the salaries they get now. They let all sorts of wasteful spending and ludicrous laws get passed, and what makes us richer isn't improvement in government but the competitive sector innovating.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, yes.

Let's assume for sake of this discussion that such a shift is worth £1 billion to UK parents or the UK economy every year. Does Gove deserve £1 billion or even a tiny percentage of that?


a) he should be doing it because he believes in it. What he's doing is not particularly original or clever, it's just common sense (with lots of flaws in implementation).

b) From a moral standpoint, he's doing it better than before, so members of every previous government should be fined £1 billion for every year they were NOT doing it.

c) One day, somebody will come along and run things even better than Gove, generating a further £0.5 billion benefit a year. At which stage Gove will be fined £0.5 billion for every year he was in charge. And all members of earlier governments will be fined another £0.5 billion, and so on.