This isn’t neoliberalism

George Monbiot’s analysis of suffocating bureaucracy in the “marketised” public sector was as accurate as it was depressing to read (We were promised freedom. Privatisation doesn’t deliver it, 10 April). I work in higher education and my wife works in the NHS, and both of us have been driven to despair by the relentless growth of managerial control since the 1990s. The rigid rules and regulations we are bound by, which stipulate not merely which procedures have to be followed for each activity, but how these must be performed, make it impossible for us to do our jobs effectively. The bureaucratic tail now wags the professional dog.

Even while frontline staff are told that lack of funding means posts must remain unfilled, and redundancies imposed, the number of managers increases regardless. These managers then bury already overstretched and stressed frontline staff with more targets, appraisals, medium-term strategic reviews, annual reviews, five-year plans, framework agreements, mission statements, new or revised guidelines, compulsory training courses and away days. As if this was not bad enough, public sector workers are also expected to read a relentless cascade of unintelligible, jargon-filled documentation explaining how they should do their jobs, and what results they are expected to achieve. It is this Soviet-style regime, actually encouraged and embedded by the Tories, that breeds inefficiency, not a lack of professionalism or competence, among frontline staff in the public sector. Doctors, nurses, police officers, probation officers, social workers, teachers and university lecturers desperately want to be allowed to do their jobs enthusiastically and professionally (while fully accepting the need for accountability and efficiency), but the sheer scale of politically imposed bureaucracy and layers of management throughout the public sector makes it impossible.
Pete Dorey
Bath, Somerset

From The Guardian’s letters page.

That might be Blairite managerialism but it’s not neoliberalism, is it? And how demented do you have to be to believe that it is?

18 comments on “This isn’t neoliberalism

  1. Private business=bureaucracy? Demanded by a fuckwit management culture that lives to increase control over others?Those are free market goals and outcomes are they? In “businesses” that don’t make profits and have zero sane incentive structures?

    Where is profit in all that cockrot? Where is the competition?

    A stupid leftist puke who thinks that –like “Brexit” in the title of Treason May’s utter sell out and betrayal WA –having the word “Private” in the literature somewhere transports himself and his incompetent medico pals to the Stock Exchange floor to carry out their supposed remedial medical antics.

  2. Pete and Mrs Dorey are certainly correct in their condemnation of public sector bureaucracy, but it is bizarre they consider this to be anything to do with ‘the market’.

    I can only presume, that like so many in the state sector, they think market = bad.

    If they want to see how competition and markets deliver, they should just visit their local supermarket.

  3. Oh, have a heart for public sector slaves, Tim! They think it’s market because that’s exactly what the all-controlling NHS bureaucracy (and I know because I suffered under it) was called when introduced. “The Internal Market”. And they think it’s neoliberal because Thatcher started it.

    Same with the marketization of higher education (which I subsequently evaded suffering under through accidents of timing), though that was, at least nominally, competition between institutions.

    Same with social work where a gal I know doing that has a hire car delivered (yes, delivered!), sometimes several times a week, because there is an arbitrary limit on how many miles a day she can claim on her own vehicle. Neoliberal Thatcher market, innit?

    I didn’t know any better back then either.

  4. while fully accepting the need for accountability and efficiency

    Lol. Yes of course you do.

    That might be Blairite managerialism but it’s not neoliberalism, is it? And how demented do you have to be to believe that it is?

    Projection. She sees the problem, has a vague and uneasy feeling about the true cause but shies away instinctively, grasping her Rosary and labelling it in a safe and comforting way.

  5. Time was when professionals did that boring managing stuffas well as their main job, albeit reluctantly. Then they decided it was too much work so hived it off to managers.
    If the managers have now taken command the professionals have only themselves to blame.

  6. Managerialism: I have a lot of sympathy for the complaint, mind.

    Angry Pete doesn’t call it neo-liberalism, he refers to “this Soviet-style regime”. So we can be confident that he’ll vote against socialism at every opportunity. How to vote against all of Labour-style socialism, Conservative-style Socialism, and LibDem-style socialism may prove a conundrum. Do you think the DUP could be persuaded to put up candidates across the UK?

  7. dearie, but what would the election slogan be? “No surrender to the creeping managerialism in the public sector” doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it.

  8. BWTM:

    In the U.S., government has imposed on the medical profession EHR, the Electronic Health Record.

    I know two doctors who quit practicing medicine because of it. It adds hours of work daily, distracts from purpose, and PRODUCES NOTHING OF VALUE.

  9. ” It adds hours of work daily, distracts from purpose, and PRODUCES NOTHING OF VALUE.”

    Well, evidence for a malpractice suit.

  10. It may be worth mentioning you can find such pointless bureaucracy in many large private sector corporations. For those coasting along on legacy rents, the market doesn’t seem to touch them for a surprisingly long time.

  11. It may be worth mentioning you can find such pointless bureaucracy in many large private sector corporations. For those coasting along on legacy rents, the market doesn’t seem to touch them for a surprisingly long time.

    Because they’ve locked in the regs and probably made an informal cartel with competitors to keep out newcomers.

  12. Dongguan John,

    It’s not just that. It’s also about reputation and that reputation lasts longer than the reality. People are still buying Apple stuff even though their Macbooks aren’t the best laptops now, and there are cheaper alternatives that do the same to the iPhone.

    That brand value gets captured by the bureaucracy, which expands throughout companies like a virus, driving out non-conformist thinkers. And no-one really notices the damage because it doesn’t take immediate effect. The company is still printing money. But you aren’t getting new development, and you can’t respond to innovation.

    IBM should have killed Microsoft over Windows/OS2. They were so much larger as a company, could throw more resources at it. But they didn’t really see the threat and didn’t have the vision of the next generation, and their processes for developing software were highly bureaucratic compared to Microsoft. Bill Gates used to do everything to make sure that the programmers could keep working, that the admin and support people were about that, rather than obstacles.

  13. Because they’ve locked in the regs and probably made an informal cartel with competitors to keep out newcomers.

    That, plus what Bloke on M4 said, and also barriers to entry. Oil companies are bureaucratic because of the vast capital needed to enter the market.

  14. @Bloke on M4 April 15, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    IBM should have killed Microsoft over Windows with O/S2

    +1 O/S2 was way better than Windows; the multi-tasking and no hour-glass was a joy. IBM made the mistake of targetting corporates rather than OEMs

  15. O/S2 was way better than Windows
    I’d agree if we’re talking about the first iteration of each, but OS/2 needed a system costing roughly double what an equivalent Windows 3 box required. And by the time we reached NT, Microsoft had caught up.

  16. @Chris

    imo
    In 1996/7 when it was Win95 OSR2 & NT, OS/2 Warp (1994) was much faster, better multitasking and worked better on same HW that NT required.

    MS played a marketing trick on Win 95 by emphasising “Minimum HW Specs (but it’s sh1t slow)” whilst IBM were more honest with OS/2 “Recommended minimum HW Specs”

    [First “PC” – no-case AIM 65]

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