Sunday, 7 August 2022

Only as parasites

A conspicuous aspect of our current Prime Ministerial beauty contest is how irrelevant it all feels. Boris Johnson knew he needed to do something striking which seems to be why he seized on Brexit. This may have encouraged many of us to expect more, but although the coronavirus debacle intervened, Boris was never likely to deliver much more.

Political narratives framed by the media are problematic in a number of ways. One of them is that most aspects of real life go on in the background and work as they are supposed to. Problems, glitches and genuine catastrophes do happen of course, but do not loom over us on a permanent basis as presented by the media.

We were given a very clear view of this during the coronavirus debacle where it could be said without undue exaggeration that apart from the media, the private sector kept things going. GPs went into hiding, supermarket checkout staff didn’t. This gave us an unambiguous view of something else we already know - the media do not reflect the way things are, how real life is actually kept on the road.

The laptop on which I type these blog posts for example. Billions of components working together as they should. It’s a device which could be criticised, but is still a remarkable technical achievement which does what it is supposed to do extremely well.

The laptop is composed of other devices manufactured in huge quantities for markets requiring hundreds of millions or even billions of customers. As is my phone sitting on the table next to my chair. As is my Kindle which is also on the table.

On a smaller but equally interesting scale, we’ve used the Tesco online delivery service for over two years now and it works well. There are minor glitches of course, but nothing remotely comparable to the glitches we put up with from the NHS. Tesco glitches are quickly and smoothly corrected while our GP service is still worse than it was before the pandemic.

We’ve been Amazon customers for years and that works very well too. A colossal global business serving vast numbers of customers and it just works. Two more examples help make the point, which becomes increasingly obvious as political inadequacies also become increasingly obvious. These examples could be the large scale production of cotton or coconut products but there are many more. 

There is no need to push this further except to reiterate that there are many huge businesses requiring huge numbers of customers to keep them going. Trillions of dollars worth of business activity. And our activity too - we are part of it.

Yet the point to be made is so vast and complex that it isn’t easy to encapsulate, especially as constant anti-business propaganda has always been with us, some of it deserved and some not, some sinister and some not. Either way, there are huge, interlinked global business activities with huge numbers of ordinary people as their customers. They need the little people, not a few rich people who travel by private jet.

This is not a claim that big business is on the side of the little people against totalitarian politics. This would be hopelessly unrealistic. It is a suggestion that there is some conflict of interest between totalitarian politics and huge businesses serving massive customer bases via processes which work as they are supposed to. It is a suggestion that traditional governments are becoming less relevant to all this.

Governments seem to have become more parasitic as they become less relevant to a world which appears to be leaving them behind. Authoritarian trends may be a counter to that. Not a surprising idea because many of major political and bureaucratic actors are parasites. Only as parasites are they relevant. This is a weakness.


The Jannie said...

"A colossal global business serving vast numbers of customers and it just works."
Unfortunately, like so many others, it's very much at the expense of staff and their working conditions.

Sam Vega said...

Any chance of having the best of both worlds? What if we had competition-honed businesses delivering our goods and services to the current high standards, and government restricting itself to those things that it traditionally did, and which businesses have no interest in unless governments fail?

For example, governments could protect our borders and supply lines, ensure that there is a stable currency, protect citizens from criminal elements, and ensure that dealings between people and companies are fair and honest. There is, admittedly, a debate to be had over the government getting involved in health and education, but looking at the current situation let's not pretend the debate has gone the way of the statists so far.

DiscoveredJoys said...

If you look at (our Western) history with squinty eyes you can see a progression. First the Church was all powerful, now it is symbolic. Then the Monarchy was all powerful, now it is symbolic. Then the Aristocracy was all powerful, now it is symbolic. Then industry barons were all powerful, now they are becoming symbolic.

I guess that politicians (and political systems like the woke ultra progressives) have stepped up to become all powerful too. But all will sooner or later become symbolic. My suggestion is that once you have organisations bigger than local communities they will, eventually, over-reach their competences and fall back.

Tammly said...

But you could say that about almost any type of organisation, my small example is The National Trust, it's ingrained in the nature of human beings.

AK's point gets to the nub of the problem we have - the comparative uselessness of our political class. Looking back over the last six decades, with a few exceptions, their intellectual initiatives have been useless, their practical measures ill considered and botched, their expansion and encroachment upon the public, burgeoning and the results thoroughly deleterious.

Woodsy42 said...

Very True, parasites is the best description. A couple of days ago we travelled back from Norfolk, past fields which were all harvested (very early this year) and amongst them the mill which happened to be from where we had been buying bread flour (in 16Kg sacks delivered) since the initial Covid shop shortages. Not far from us is an oat mill, again since Covid we buy porridge, granola, muesli by the large box reliably delivered to the door. A while ago we had a log burner fitted, a local company, very competitive, very efficient, job done. The same applies to our local shop, local garage and others. Meanwhile Government's only influence has been one of interference while they forcibly take our money, surround us with rules and totally fail on the vital jobs which we as society have outsourced to them. The health systm is a failure, they can't keep borders, neither keep unwanted people out nor provide for us to travel. The police service is a bad joke, totally failing to keep us safe and secure while they faff about policing hurty feelings. DVLA is a mess, they make the rules and demand the paperwork but can't supply it. Local council administration has been paralysed while they, and half the civil service, sit at home on salaries that make private company employees, those doing all the work, second class citizens with minimal pensions.
I'm sick of the lot of them!

A K Haart said...

Jannie - it can be, but it raises millions out of subsistence poverty too. There are many ways to frame things.

Sam - we could have the best of both worlds and in spite of current trends this may be where we are going. Or it may not be where we are going. We should probably frame our standpoint both ways, but government seems to be the aspect which needs vigilance.

DJ - we also have online communities which could be a new aspect of the progression, one which has yet to evolve into something more clearly defined. What we could anticipate is that these new communities could be both bigger than and hostile towards the woke ultra progressives. This may be going on now.

Tammly - I agree - we seem to need a way to define and revitalise the major state institutions without adding on loads of extra remits. A way of conducting the business of government which is clearly understood and vigilantly monitored, not a stage for political actors.

Woodsy - I'm sick of them too. The pandemic seems to have highlighted the need for wholesale reform and a clear consensus on what governments can do and how they should do it. Things are done which need to be done and we don't want to lose that, but we do need far more clarity and far less evasive government PR.