Russell Taylor – In praise of a country fit for heroes

“It’s the economy, stupid,” said Bill Clinton. Wise words, Bill, but if your nation has slipped into a statist mire, it’s scant consolation if the economy is in rude health. If all your hard work goes towards the upkeep of a massed army of legislators, bureaucrats and welfare-claimants, who cares if the pound is strong against the dollar? Unless you’re a member of the ruling elite or rich enough to buy your freedom, you’re at the mercy of the state machine. And like the Terminator, it can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. Welcome to Britain!

Last Saturday, I was reminded how dreadful interaction with state agencies can be, when I collected a package from my local Royal Mail depot. Most working Joes and Josephines can’t make it to this particular circle of Hell during the week, meaning that Saturday mornings are like rush hour. So it was when I arrived, to find a queue of despairing souls stretching out the door.

After ten long minutes, I made it inside the collection office door and laid eyes on the cause of our glacial progress. The man behind the counter (called George, it transpired) was cheerily going about his work, making small-talk with exasperated customers, chatting to passing colleagues, chuckling at his own incompetence, and disappearing for what felt like hours on end in search of packages and envelopes. One of his vanishing acts was so protracted that another member of staff took over and located a box for a lady at the front of the queue. He was just about to hand it over when George returned. The two of them then embarked on a conversation about their plans for the weekend, until George’s colleague bid him farewell and left – with the lady’s package still under his arm. The ensuing manhunt took a further five minutes to resolve, by which stage most of us had lost the will to live.

While I endured this Sisyphean ordeal, I noticed a sign above the counter, stating that abuse of Royal Mail staff would not be tolerated. I can’t say that it took me by surprise. A Buddhist monk could be driven to violence by this kind of blithe ineptitude, let alone ordinary citizens with ordinary levels of patience. In Britain, customers of the mail service are far more likely to ‘go postal’ than its employees.

There’s nothing exceptional about dear old George. His work ethic (or lack of) is fairly typical in the public sector. If you’re unlikely to get a rocket up your backside for being lazy, unhelpful or inefficient, there’s every chance you’ll be all those things. Good habits are learned under the pressure of incentives. Remove those incentives and people tend to take the course of least resistance. That’s why the public sector is inclined to share standards of customer service with the North Korean politburo. In fact, I’m not sure why laid-off government employees don’t approach the Kim family for work. The language barrier might pose a problem, but the culture of obstructive bureaucracy is universal.

The cushy number enjoyed by George is precisely what public sector employees are always fighting to protect. They want to be free to do as much or as little as they please, to whatever standard they fancy, and have everyone else like it or lump it. If George wants to drag his heels and make mistakes, he should be allowed to do so, and all those judgmental ingrates in the queue should have to suck it up. After all, if we were all more like George and less concerned with the vulgar pursuit of efficiency and excellence, the world would be a better place. Right?

In fact, the Left’s expansion of the state can be seen as an effort to create a country fit for people like George. Our vandalised education system has been built on this very ethos: that no one should be penalised for their unwillingness to meet the standards of others. Be true to yourself and screw everyone else, as the Girl Guides are now pledging (or words to that effect). This is why the shrieking harpies of the teaching unions are so resistant to Michael Gove’s school reforms: because he’s threatening to introduce real world standards into the looking-glass world of state education. If he gets his way, children will turn into strivers and achievers, with high expectations of themselves and others, and will enter the adult world wanting more from life than the swamp of mediocrity that presently awaits them. Their demands will drive the statists out of business, back to the fringes of society where they belong. No wonder they’re putting up a fight.

The Georges of this world are only cogs in the giant Terminator of the modern state. Above them are countless planners, thinkers and legislators, devoted to creating a society exempt from the tiresome demands of reality, in which they wield magisterial power over the rest of us. Even if you have faith in these grand poobahs of the liberal establishment, the donkey work is still done by people like George, which means that, ultimately, we are all at their mercy: enduring their shoddy service or picking up their slack.

Post Office bunglers are the thin end of the wedge. Tolerate them and you tolerate an entire put-up-or-shut-up culture, propagated by talentless wastrels. Before you know it, you are hemmed in by red tape, micro-regulation and punitive taxes, and there’s no way out. The statists have closed the borders, outlawed the alternatives, and you find yourself being shepherded, cap in hand, towards someone like George, on whom your fate depends.

The mainstream party merry-go-round has done nothing to halt the statist march. Flags and faces change, but the bureaucrats carry on regardless, expanding their powerbase, passing regulations as they see fit, and sucking the vitality out of those who aspire to support themselves. Conservative, Labour, Lib-Dem – it doesn’t matter who you vote into office if the record is stuck and no one has the balls or the inclination to lift the needle. In a society that pours scorn on hard work and ambition, members of the productive class are heroes. Radical change is required if we are to build a country fit for them to live in.

9 comments on “Russell Taylor – In praise of a country fit for heroes

  1. rjmackin
    July 3, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    My particular favourite example of public sector ruthless inefficiency was a recent incident in the Dublin Passport Office where staff went on a work-to-rule over the summer period, resulting in a huge backlog, and were then all duly paid overtime to clear said backlog.

  2. Henry Kennedy
    July 3, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Here are some more glaring examples of shoddy service from the groaning state:

    – My passport application carefully submitted with the soon to expire passport comes back with the wrong month as part of my DOB. Ask about changing it: that’ll be £90 sir. Me paying for their F-up!

    – Drivers licence sent for renewal with original photocard and paper licence. New licence arrives with wrong country of birth. That’ll also cost you to fix Sir.

    – Try getting a parking permit in central London. In the lovely borough of Camden I try this. Upload function does not work online so gaving PAID I email docs to given email address. No reply for a week, so I send chaser email. No reply for second week so I send second chaser email. No reply for 4 more days. I call landline. I get a polite but semi-efficient man who tells me they use another email address. Great!

    I then send all docs through to correct email address. All processed for you now Sir I’m told, just turn up before 5pm and collect the permit and paperwork. I arrive at 4pm, interupting my work day. Queue for 45mins to be told by a lady behind the counter that I’m mistaken that I can pick up permit now. I need to fill in a 3 page form. Worried I’m going to miss the 5pm close and with one day left to get permit, I fill in 3 page form, take it to another counter where I have the luck to find a smart, efficient, Asian man (miracle!) who explains I didn’t need to fill in the form, glowers at the stupid lady and hands me over my new permit.

    Isn’t service great when there’s no competition!

    Time for all the statist sacred cows to experience a rude awakening. Let’s start with the NHS. Anyone needed A&E at a weekend? Or a GP at the weekend? Or had their medical records lost time and time again during house moves?

  3. Ben
    July 3, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    I have had that exact experience at our local Post Office collection.

    I once foolishly thought that if I was picking up a parcel addressed to my wife I would need to identify myself as evidence that I was legitimately picking up the parcel. After queuing for the requisite 35 minutes I got to the desk only to be told that I needed her ID instead. So, all you need for the state to assist you in theft is steal the Post Office card lying in the front porch as well as the homeowners ID whilst you burgle their home. With the card and the ID Post Office staff will happily hand over any parcel they are holding.

  4. silverminer
    July 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Whilst I’m in no way defending the inefficiency of the public sector, I have found that very many large organisations in the private sector are equally as bad, utilities being the worst of the bunch.

    We need a nation of entrepreneurs so we can start dealing with the organ grinders and not the monkeys again. As well as sweeping away large sections of the State we need to break up the banks, supermarkets, tied pub chains, Big Ag, housing associations etc. Replace with; mutuals, farm shops and box schemes, freehouses, family mixed farms and small BTL landlords.

    You build a free society by bolstering the middle classes and this means rescuing these avenues of wealth creation from the stifling regulation and bureaucracy which is killing them off. Everything is being consolidated into bigger and bigger units and, I believe, deliberately so.

    Think about America in it’s heyday in the 1800s. No-one worked a job longer than the time it took them to put together a stake to start up on their own. They rose from nothing to having half the world’s wealth in the space of a hundred years…then they got lumbered with the Fed and the IRS and they squandered the lot in the next hundred.

    • Russell Taylor
      July 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      Agreed. Every large organisation is susceptible to the culture of the public sector. That said, a business can only get that large if it’s doing enough to satisfy its customers. If it can stay accountable and retain the values that brought it success, its size needn’t be a problem. A megacorp is still better than a megastate.

  5. Apparent bigot
    July 3, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    I always enjoy winding down the day with a bit of Bogpaper. Fantastic as usual.

    Great again from Russell T and more sharp comments from Mr Silverminer.

    Tax, regulation, Fed, IRS, BoE, HMRC all massively implicated in the mess we’re in.

    Looking forward to the day I hear Bogpaper getting name checked in MSM as bunch of nasty Libertarians.

  6. Simon Roberts
    July 4, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Another excellent article. I was a civil servant for ten years and this is exactly how they think.

    They believe that people in the the private sector somehow choose to be subject to competition – something which they themselves choose not to be.

    Many years ago this was (sort of) tolerated as civil servants were poorly paid. These days however, they are paid far more than parivate sector equivalents and that’s before the taxpayer-funded index-linked pensions.

  7. Jimmy
    July 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    I work in the public sector and the amount of meddling and red tape that filters down makes you feel like giving in.

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  1. Steynian 479st | Free Canuckistan! - July 7, 2013

    […] BOGPAPER– the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); In praise of a country fit for heroes … […]

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