Niall Cook blogs an amusing (and surprisingly honest for a leftie) appraisal of the Public Service:
The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed down from generation to generation, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to immediately dismount. In the Public Service, however, a whole range of far more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:
- Change riders;
- Buy a stronger whip;
- Do nothing: “This is the way we have always ridden dead horses.”;
- Visit other countries to see how they ride dead horses;
- Perform a productivity study to see if lighter riders improve the dead horse’s performance;
- Hire a contractor to ride the dead horse;
- Harness several dead horses together in an attempt to increase the speed;
- Provide additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance;
- Appoint a committee to study the horse and assess how dead it actually is;
- Re-classify the dead horse as “living-impaired”;
- Develop a Strategic Plan for the management of dead horses. Intensely workshop this plan;
- Rewrite the expected performance requirements for all dead horses;
- Modify existing standards to include dead horses;
- Declare that, as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overheads, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line than many other horses;
- Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.
My first draft of this post included a diatribe about various aspects of the tertiary education bureaucracy that currently employs me. Instincts of self-preservation caused me to have second thoughts. I suspect anyone who’s worked for a public sector bureaucracy will identify fairly strongly with Niall’s list, although there are bureucracies and bureaucracies.
The private sector is just as susceptible to inefficiency and self-delusion, but the prospect of bankruptcy usually eventually provides a stern reality check. Is this an argument for the neo-liberal ideal of privatisation? I haven’t made up my mind.