Apart from reminding us yet again of his vile crimes, the recent death of Ian Brady raises a wider issue.
Capital punishment for murder was suspended in Great Britain in 1965 and abolished in 1969. The likely motive was to remove it from the political stage, but another effect has been to monetise murder. Governments have done this kind of thing forever, they monetise certain social issues and in so doing they build inertia into the status quo. In doing that they build acceptance.
For example. Recently Mrs H and I were discussing how personal interests might subtly affect the activities of publicly funded bodies such drug enforcement agencies. It has been said before but has not been said often enough – where is the enforcement agent’s personal motive to reduce the scale of the drugs problem?
This is not to claim that the problem is resolvable or that enforcement is lax, but if drug abuse were to vanish with the wave of a magic wand then jobs would vanish too. Jobs which pay the mortgage, buy food, clothes, fuel, holidays, car and a hundred other consumer goodies. For enforcement agencies, perpetuating the status quo is rational behaviour. If the drugs situation worsens, government may be forced to try another approach. If the situation improves, budgets may be cut and fewer enforcement agents required.
In this respect whole swathes of publicly funded activity are much the same. Money is spent on a social issue and that spending benefits the agency tasked with keeping the issue below the political radar. As long as it suits the agency to keep it there of course. On occasions it may not.
The environment is another example. Natural waters in the UK are generally in a better condition than they have been for several centuries. Pollution from the industrial revolution is mostly under control and rivers are not the open sewers they often were in the past.
So what? So new environmental problems have to be found if controlling agencies are to keep their budgets. Climate change, air pollution, endocrine disrupters, dioxins, landfill, fly tipping, recycling. Some of these problems are more legitimate than others and looking after our environment is the right thing to do but those budgets are a key driver to what is done and why. They lead to the exaggerations, the overblown rhetoric, the dubious links to cancer and other health horrors. It’s the way government does these things.
Governments know all this because they are run by senior bureaucrats who need to maintain their budgets and their slice of the status quo. They have their personal incomes and index-linked pensions to protect. There is no great imperative to make things radically better - where would the imperative come from?
And so we return to the Ian Brady abomination. Leaving aside arguments for and against capital punishment, many incomes are linked to keeping people such as Brady incarcerated for decades. Lawyers, bureaucrats, prison officers, doctors, psychiatrists, administrators, publishers and the media. Paltry amounts of money in the overall scheme of government spending, but this is how governments do these things.