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10. A Terminal Toolbag

IN another small blast of the trumpet against bureaucratic verbosity, this list, issued without comment, is circulating around Government departments in Washington ...

56 words Lord's Prayer
118 words23rd Psalm
226 words Gettysburg Address
297 wordsTen Commandments
15,269 words U.S. Dept of Agriculture Order on cabbage pricing

reported in the Daily Mail, July 1985
With the fundamental structure of the state founded upon the belief that determinism is able to control a complex system, it is no surprise to discover that the basic mechanisms and tools upon which the state relies are fatally flawed in their construction. Here are just a few examples.

THE OVERGROWTH MECHANISM - State structures usually have no mechanism that adjusts their size to the needs of the occasion, often measuring their success by the level of next year's budget increase. So they overgrow if enough money is available. It would seem to be a natural desire of most forms of organisation to grow and prosper. If not enough money is available after society has been taxed to its limit, the state can and often does print more to cover budget overrun, thus providing the basic fuel of inflation.

Companies classically grow bigger by supplying more product to their customers. They have their faults, sometimes selling crap products, cheating to gain competitive advantage or spending more on advertising than quality maintenance. But if we stop buying a company's crap products then they do stop growing and actually can become smaller - and eventually even cease to exist.

The state grows bigger by simply deciding we need its services to "manage" an ever increasing number of the perceived needs of society - needs that it perceives with the supposed mandate of the people given by voting - more about that later. Most of what the state now "manages" at great cost, was not an area of its control or responsibility less than one century ago. The state spends much of its time just looking for new things to manage and control, continually passing new laws and regulations, with little thought given to removing previous irrelevant ones. This growth of assumed responsibility and the resulting laws and regulations, seem to be checked only by the wealth-creating skills of the society on which it feeds. As long as the money is there to support it, the state will feed on this and grow in influence. In extreme cases one state will seek to grow by forcibly taking over another.

Whether state management is running the roadworks department of a local council, "social security," a police constabulary or the Ministry of Agriculture, it will always seek to advance its own growth and perceived importance and, unless restrained, will steadily and relentlessly expand. In something as simple as a local roads department in the U.K. it is obvious that at a certain point there are basically sufficient roads in the community and the actual cost of maintaining the existing system is greatly reduced and easily managed. Rather than cut the department back though, they proceed with constant rebuilding of the existing road system for an alleged future benefit. The reality is a road system constantly clogged by rebuilding works, only a few of which relate to repair of the existing structure.

Some government roadworks actually detract from the smooth running of a road, such as: the superfluous insertion of traffic lights at roundabouts all over the country; traffic islands that reshape themselves at regular intervals, dangerously narrowing sections of the road; the unsightly and confusing painting and repainting of lines, zig zags and grids of white and yellow; control-freak channelling of traffic into forced lanes far ahead of intersections, causing trapped motorists to wildly try and escape at the last minute; implementation of often unnecessary one-way systems; needless mini-roundabouts at otherwise well-functioning crossroads. The list goes on as new ways are constantly being sought to annualy increase departmental budgets - and this is but one example of a local state service.

We will not dwell more on the Common Agricultural Policy here, an obvious example of unrestrained growth, other than to recognise that the massive level of fraud associated with it actually boosts its growth and creates more employment within the organisation. Fraud is not perceived as a cost by the bureaucrats who run it, even though estimates have put it at up to a third of the CAP budget, equal to billions of pounds per annum. Fraud prevention is not built into the toolbag, though it would be unimaginable to us that any of our major food companies could grow and prosper by such means.

THE "DISCONNECTED" FACTOR - Unlike the individual, the small company or the multinational corporation, the state does not need to ask us or even entice us in order to set its hands upon our money; neither do we have any specific say in how it is spent. There is no direct relationship between our money and the product we receive from the state. The individual customer feedback is not considered. Thus, when we become unhappy with a service or stop using a product of the state, we must continue to pay for it and it is only if millions of others for many years are in the same position that some message may get through to the deaf supplier.

Let us look at two recent extremes to illustrate a point. When Perrier found benzene contamination in its water it recalled all stocks, lost market share and later successfully re-emerged into a much larger world market. There are many other instances of product recall and rapid damage-control exercises when problems are perceived in industry. Any large company has damage limitation plans well rehearsed for any major product problems that could occur. They recall products because they acknowledge that there has been a threat to the health of their consumers and because their insurers stipulate this.

The other example which immediately comes to mind, of course, is the British state's endless King Canute*-like stance in virtually proclaiming by decree that the virulent Mad Cow Disease did not pose a threat to the food chain. Only after the growing trickle of young deaths threatened to become embarrassing, did they finally admit that perhaps, yes, there was a risk in allowing these diseased animals into our diet. But of course, there is no problem now, whenever "now" happens to be, and they cannot be held responsible because they listened carefully to the government scientists who said what they were paid to say.

*King Canute knew the difference between the real laws that govern our existence on earth and the man-made laws which seek to control events with similar reliability. It was to make this point that he took his court down to the seaside and demonstrated to them that even the great and fearsome power of the king's command could not stop the tide from coming in. Perhaps he was also trying in some way to impress upon them the comparative frailty of the laws that he was being advised and urged to make. Unfortunately, it seems his point was lost and he goes down in history as some nut who thought he could command the tide. He tried to make a point but the tide of history and custom was against him.

Guardian - Apr 1991


In this second example, the British and their export customers were exposed to a fatal communicable brain disease for ten years, whilst the government dismissed the constant warnings of scientists not on their payroll. At the time of writing, Britain is virtually the only place in the world where British beef is not officially and unofficially regarded as dangerous food. British officials charged with safeguarding the public, portray the whole thing as silly foreign hysteria that us Brits with our stiff upper lips and spongy brains should not worry about. Instead we are urged to feel sorry for the poor farmers and the great British beef industry. Can you ever imagine Heinz telling us it is OK that one in a million of their famous tins of baked beans might contain a potentially fatal brain disease but we must stick by this great British product?

At least, in the case of the beef scandal, we can ignore the state's assurances and choose whether or not to consume beef, even though we still must indirectly pay for its production (and destruction). The same can not be said about areas under complete state control, such as nuclear power, policing and arms purchases, in which our personal preferences are not considered.

I do not mean to imply that companies always react as positively as did Perrier, but how often do we ever hear a government admission of some form of leak into our environment that does constitute a threat to human health or warrant consumer precautions. Only some thirty years after the 1957 fire at Britain's Windscale nuclear plant did we begin to learn of the true dangers to which that generation were exposed.

REPRESSION - One of the most time-honoured tools of the state is repression to silence dissent and disturbance. This sometimes works on a temporary basis but inevitably builds up to greater disorder later. Once free radio was allowed in the UK, to be "banned by the BBC" was a sure ticket to success. Repression of a small problem will often stimulate enough interest to make it a big problem. We see how the suppression of soft drugs has led to an escalating use of harder drugs.

Often strong repression also creates the classic situation where ten new converts to the "cause" spring up for every one that is knocked down (history is filled with examples, including today's breed of "eco-warriors"). Somehow when the cause is righteous, and often when it is not, the power that is applied as repression can mysteriously transfer itself to those on whom it is exercised.

SUPPORT IT - We all know that when you raise or lower the price of a can of beans or a pair of boots, this will have the overall effect of either lowering or raising sales of that item. We know that if you offer more pay for a job, there will be more applicants of a generally higher calibre.

However heartless it sounds in today's climate of desperation, it is still undeniable that the more money the state pays us for being in one of the "victim" categories the more of those "victims" there will be, whether they be the unemployed, single mothers, the rent-challenged or the disabled. In a wheelchair myself, I know how often one sees the apparently able-bodied returning to cars displaying the official orange disabled badge. It may be implicit in a successful society to help real victims of circumstance to overcome hardship and misfortune whether by handouts or other more integral means as they evolve; and I maintain that the heart and intellect of humanity would be big enough if its pockets were deeper. But the state simply perpetuates the problem by paying out more and more, while having no vested interest in ever actually changing the situation that provides its bureaucrats with a living. How many examples do we have of these bodies set up to eliminate a problem, actually eliminating it, shutting down their operations and going home?

In many of the privately funded charity organisations we are now seeing an evolution towards helping victims climb out of the poverty trap by supplying wells, low-tech farming equipment, education and even sometimes a market and a fair price for their products in the West. This is the type of support that changes the situation rather than prolonging it.

Increasingly in this century, the state has taken on more of the supporting maternal role in society, always seeking to be there with a breastful of the milk of human kindness when we are in trouble; taking care of all those things that we once had to look after for ourselves when we left mother and home to become responsible adults. What the state feeds us is not milk but the polluted remnants of its own plunder from society - that which survives their own inflated salaries, palaces, wars and harebrained schemes. The money coming back has lost its meaning and its ownership - and is often expended on something other than that which was intended. It is a poisonous tit on which we suck, individuals and business alike, and in the obsession with "getting our share" of the state handout we both compromise our own integrity and trample on the true rights of others.
It is characteristic of the most stringent censorships that they give credibility to the opinions they attack.

Voltaire (1694 - 1778)
The state-given "right" to suck at its sorry breast is one of the basic rationales that underlines many of the regulations governing our freedom to cross red lines drawn upon the map by the world's "developed" nations . And the proffering of it too, stimulates unnatural movements of people attracted to the free lunch rather than to opportunity and change. Living without the state will mean putting some trust in the abundant milk of the great Universe that created us. This Universe is far more worthy of that trust than are the pumped up politicians constantly telling us that: "Mother knows best and father will punish us if we disagree."

Sunday Times - Jul 1997
Millions of pounds of public money have been pumped into funding dozens of British films that have never been shown in any cinema.


ATTACK ! - A classic approach by the state to dealing with problems in our society is to set up structures to relentlessly attack them. These structures are prone to the old "unchecked growth" principle. This growth is unfortunately fed when the problem they are seeking to address becomes worse.

Thus, even an honest police force waging a genuine war on crime is subject to the principle that if they are successful they reduce their employment levels and importance. Yet if crime goes up they achieve increased importance and attract bigger budgets. I give the police the benefit of the doubt and do not suggest that they consciously encourage crime in order to build up their departments. But I must also give the organising powers of chaos and the market enough credit to realize that this inbuilt principle does not support the successful operation of the system. A clear example of this is the abundance of laws against victimless crimes, such as the drug laws, which build up unnecessary police numbers fighting an unwinnable war and diverting much needed skills from combating the crimes that involve victims. When drugs are legalised these forces will need new crimes to fight, just as the security forces at MI6 recently switched a large portion of their budget from the reduced Russian and Irish threats, instead devoting large resources to combating the newly perceived threat to liberty posed by animal rights activists and anti-road protesters in the UK.

Their are many other tools in the Toolbag, and more keep getting added as the lunacy continues. At the root of it however, the basic foundations of the state undermine its own intentions, be they good or bad. All their tools and mechanisms are built on coercion; the attempt to force things into place, which is a one-sided mechanism, divorced from the interactive principles of nature that enable a complex system to successfully develop and adapt to changing circumstances.

Guardian Sept 1996 Guardian Sept 1996
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From the book "Uncommon Sense - The State is Out of Date"
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