People Power

Just a thought on this Tory thing about hanging all the bureaucrats and getting people to do things locally, themselves, as a voluntary community.

The one point I\’ve not yet seen put across seems to be the most important one to me. It\’s a variation of the economist\’s idea of revealed preference.

We currently have several armies\’ worth of people whose paid job is to shepherd the proles into certain forms of organisation and behaviour. The worry seems to be that if these roles were devolved down to a community of volunteers, then they wouldn\’t get done. The proles would be unshepherded for the proles can\’t be arsed to do said shepherding.

From that economist\’s view this is just absolutely fine of course. Not only shouldn\’t we believe what others say the proles should do, how they should be shepherded, we shouldn\’t believe what us proles say about how we should be shepherded either. We should only look at that amount of shepherding that we proles can be bothered to do.

For, by definition, that\’s the only amount of it that\’s worth the effort of doing.

So, things that are undone by leaving them to be done voluntarily are those things which should not be done anyway as people are not willing to do them voluntarily.

And furthermore, those arguing that they will be left undone because people can\’t be bothered to do them are those who are insisting that the things should not be done in the first place. For they are insisting that people don\’t think they are worth doing and since value is in the eye of the actor doing the doing, they\’re not if they are indeed undone.

Which is a very amusing place for all those lefties to be. We can\’t leave people alone to do or not do these things for they\’ll not get done. Excellent, they shouldn\’t be done then!

12 comments on “People Power

  1. Ah, yes, those who want OTHER PEOPLE to do things THEY want done. Usually at another’s expense too.

    Word for that: hypocrite.

    For those who bleat about the Libertarians who won’t have the State do X or Y or pay for Z, the answer I give is that the solution is right their in your own back pocket. Money, meet mouth.

    Even under the Libertarian administration, there would be nothing wrong with Labour setting up their own voluntary fund for those who want certain things done. That piggy bank would be as empty as Polly Toynbee’s bonce.

    But that is not enough. Authoritarians want CONTROL of the humans they consider clay.

  2. Pingback: Let society evolve | The Rational Optimist…

  3. I think these sort of posts are disappointing, and assume your readership is a bit stupider than it is. I’m sure the point that ‘if people wanted to do it they would already do it’ is not a revelation to anyone, the interesting bit is where it is not sufficient.

    For example people might want to do something but not have enough money. Or it might be impossible for the social benefits of an action to be captured as private benefits (externalities).

    A lot of this is nonsense, that’s for sure. But an attack on it is surely strengthened by pointing out some of the better arguments for it.

  4. The ‘crats, and their statist enablers, can’t abide voluntary initiatives. Which is why they deliberately place obstacles in the way of ordinary folk seeking to use their initiative. Excuses include elfin safety, you need a licence, you need insurance, qualifications, or you might cause an obstruction.

    Activities cancelled this year include fossil hunting on the beach, because it involves breaking stones open with a wee hammer, and the Easter pond-dipping event when the bairns go with jam jars looking for frogspawn, newts etc. The latter because the two pensioners who run it can’t afford the cost of liability insurance.

    We would get far more volunteerism if there were some mechanism for these small events to be exempted from the perils of litigation and over-regulation.

  5. What we have now is really anti-volunteerism. Almost as soon as someone starts doing something useful (clearing snow from footpaths, mowing grass, planting flowers, …) we see an army of council jobsworths telling them to stop, complaining that the council hasn’t carried out a proper risk assessment, etc.

  6. Problem might be that volunteers do present themselves to run schools(!) etc but that they will be the usual attention-seekers with too much time on their hands and too high an opinion of themselves. Bellamy’s People had a self -appointed ” Community Leader” ,Mr Khan, who nobody had ever heard of ,who ,when asked what he did, replied “lead the community”.
    Apart from being the most half-arsed political manifesto of all time, Cameron’s big idea (is this it after all this huffing and puffing?) could give over local institutions to nutters who don’t have the slighest democratic support .That would n’t be funny either for Libertarians or grown-up people.

  7. DBC Reed has a point, I can tell you from my own local government experience. You can get quite a lot of people – but still a very small proportion of the electorate – interested in/irate about issues for a short period. But by about month three of meetings you’re down to a handful of people.

    Some of them will be decent people who are there from a sense of duty, others will be pushing their own narrow agendas, others will be loons with time on their hands.

    Where you go wrong though, Tim, is that this doesn’t mean stuff doesn’t get done. This wildly unrepresentative group of people will have been recognised by the local council as a representative body, and will be listened to. Government has trouble dealing with individuals, and likes to deal with groups. It’s difficult/impossible to find out what the people actually want, so if you’ve got a group claiming to be telling you this, it’s convenient for you to believe them.

    On a far larger scale, this effect, with a similar democratic deficit, can be seen in New Labour’s stakeholder culture. Your view that things won’t get done is, IMO, excessively utopian.

  8. I found your theory works with work I never do any or as little as possible and have found that in the end 80% did not need doing anyway.

    I am retired now but before I was not a burden on the state as my remark may imply I did have jobs self-employed mostly but I achieved more by using the above stated methodology than beavering away at everything. Try it.

  9. I think Tim surely must know of the sort of public goods argument that is routinely trotted out go justify government services funded via tax. But as Richard said at the top of this thread, in many cases, even services considered to be state ones can and often do work a lot better in the private sector (education, toll roads, lighthouses, even security services, etc.).

    As for the Tory idea of trying to redevelop the “little platoons”, a lot of what is required is simply for the state to stop doing a lot of the crap that it does now, starting of course with the Welfare State.

    And talking of supporting voluntary organisations, the Tories should scrap, immediately, the absurd Labour plan to put anyone who works with kids through some absurd box-ticking vetting process to avoid potential criminals. This sort of bureaucracy is killing voluntary organisations and weakening civil society generally.

  10. . But by about month three of meetings you’re down to a handful of people.

    Need say any more?.

  11. DBC and Mr Lettice,

    That, of course depends on how the people who put themselves forward are allowed to gather to themselves the means to do stuff – basically authority and money.

    If, like politicians, they are allowed to decide this amongst themselves then what you describe will come to pass.

    If however they depend on people signing up to whatever their latest wheeze might be and contributing “at the door”, the result will be more akin to what Timmy decribes.

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