Idiot socialists again: if only we ran the economy like the Olympics

And contrary to the coalition rhetoric of spendthrift public servants, I can think of lots of private companies less exacting with their cash than UK Sport. Its Investment Policy and Principles speak of a \”no-compromise\” approach and \”a willingness to realign funding in the light of persistent under- or over-performance\”. In other words, only potential medallists need apply – a philosophy that applies to whole sports, such as handball, as well as athletes.

Lest it be thought that I am finding in a news event only a reflection of my politics, let me freely confess that there are aspects of this picture I find unlovely. The ruthless targeting, which allows little scope for invisible sports or unlucky athletes. The way officials throw around terms such as \”performance pathways\” and \”delivery\” and the other nonsense of modern public management. And the sheer professionalisation of the process will doubtless strike as abhorrent those who prefer to coo over Tom Daley.

But after this month, there is no denying that this policy – of picking winners and backing them – works. And as Grix points out: \”When it comes to sport, politicians will follow exactly the opposite policies from the ones they stick to in managing the economy.\”

The conclusion being that therefore we must pick winners in the economy and back them.

The problems with this being twofold:

1) It\’s simple enough to pick winners in sports. You\’ve a small enough number with the right genetics and they\’re pretty much already known to those in the sporting structures. You also know what your goal is. You don\’t have this level of knowledge of companies in the economy. Indeed, you cannot: for you don\’t actually have a clear goal. We don\’t know what it is that people will want to buy in 3-5 year\’s time. We don\’t know what other people will be producing at that time. It just isn\’t as simple as \”run faster than the others and you\’ll get a medal\”. Just as an example, can you imagine trying to uncover a potential winner in smartphones/tablets? Let alone properly identifying and then backing them: through the government bureaucracy?

2) Let\’s actually look at the Olympics. Somewhere around £20 billion of the taxpayers\’ money spent on sports day for drug addicts. Makes the bureaucrats who \”delivered\” this feel very good indeed. You might get a different answer from the populace if you actually asked them, well, was that worth £300 to each and every one of you? £1,200 for the family of four?

Quite. If we did run the economy like we ran the Olympics we\’d get to pay for what we don\’t want and others would buy with our money what they want.

8 thoughts on “Idiot socialists again: if only we ran the economy like the Olympics”

  1. I’ve made a hat.

    17,245 other people have made hats.

    How can we possibly pick which ones people actually want? Hmm…?

    IfI know! Let’s set up the DHA (Dept of Hat Evaluation). Staff it with the requisite number of mandarins and hat experts to prototype, test, and focus group the 17,246 designs. Of course some we won’t even bother testing because the DHA will just arbitrarily decide no one will want those hats. Tough. You can’t have it.

    For the rest, a budget of a few tens/hundreds of millions should be enough to evaluate hats and pick a few designs which can be allowed to go into manufacture.

    Then they can be dumped in the shops and people can decide to buy them or not.

    And then, in six months time, or year, we can do the whole thing again. Only this time the DHA will need more money (because bureaucracies grow). And there will have to be a DHA for every conceivable product.

    Or we could just let people make hats and public decide which ones they want.

  2. Isn’t this the standard bromide about socialist economic development recast into a slightly different context?

    Bureaucracies can be really good at achieving a well-defined goal. Economic development is not well-defined, so they cannot succeed at it.

    Note that many bureaucracies are more interested in sustaining themselves than in the actual objectives they’re supposed to be achieving (in the jargon, process rather than outcomes orientation – which happens in sport, also – cf Australia).

  3. Most of the competitors at the Olympics were state-funded. Most of those competitors didn’t win medals. So by this logic, state funding for Olympic athletes has been a failure.

  4. How does the Murph explain the medal winners who were denied funding by the state but won medals? One of the judo winners had to beg the public to buy her a car.

    Maybe we should do that instead?

  5. Apologies to Murph. This stupid idea is not his.

    I just assume now that all stupid ideas are somehow connected to him.

  6. Sport is a zero sum game. Life is not. The Olympic games are a state funded sports event promoting pride in the state.

    What I find fascinating is that people seem most interested in Usain Bolt, who is the one person who wins through inate talent rather than hard work. As much as do gooders try to spin it, people are most interested in seeing those with inherent gifts express their superiority over those who valiantly try to best them.

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