Not long ago it was impossible to skim police journals without seeing constant assertions that “accountability” was the secret of good policing. Whilst this is obvious at one level, we also know what accountability means at another – it’s a rhetoric for operating in secret and performance managing in public through bent statistics. Police across the developed world have been doing this and ensuring us crime has been dropping since 2002. Most of us don’t think crime has dropped and that our cops do a decent enough job in difficult circumstances, at least on the basis of surveys done. These surveys are dubious in method. I won’t say much about them here, but in classic rebuttal, some US research shows that those sufficiently image-managed in health care to be satisfied with their treatment have a 44% greater risk of death than those of us who are more sceptical. In my own field of educational evaluation we have known for years that the ‘happy sheets’ standardly issued to ensure quality relate not at all to whether courses are any good, yet more and more of this kind of stuff is issued. Much that is passed as research and performance management is unspeakable shite.
In comparison with what I’ve seen in manufacturing and agricultural improvement, the rest of what we do has been going backwards into bureaucracy and inefficiency, covered up by a welter of satisfaction surveys and other lies. We have lost the ability to call a spade a spade because political correctness rears its head everywhere and people of honest toil can’t even distinguish the tools of their trade without fear of censorship by the smiling brotherhood.
I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read it, but human resource management now reads like fascism, urging companies to account on the basis of profit per employee much as in old slave records – this in a subject once dominated by industrial democracy (when it was called ‘industrial relations’). In policing, one arrest by a keen uniform spawns massive custody, clear-up and court dealings. Usually, the arrest doesn’t work in solving the underlying problem, especially in areas like domestic violence and the anti-social. In financial services and market-making, the number of transactions to shift a banana or barrel of oil is immense and they run through a vast, secretive and unregulated offshore empire of transfer pricing and corruption. This is a massive bureaucracy and drain on our general productivity. The figures are clear. The rich get the money and it does not flow back into the production of meaningful work and jobs.
Most of the people who currently agree with me are Libertarian and want government to operate on a small scale. My own position is socialist, but only in that form of it that might persist once the state has withered away and in the scientific sense of our nature as social animals. I firmly believe, if we are to be free, that our freedom needs policing and that we need to avoid the cameralism Hegel spoke of under the heading ‘Polizie’ (the old German State was built around a military network).
To get anywhere with the design of our society we need a realistic grip on efficiency and what it’s for, whether in private sector commerce or in properly public sector activities like policing. The public sector is now caught up in not being able to pay other than ‘Chinese wages’ and taking the pain ‘efficiency’ has caused in the private sector – but we are forgetting this lauded private sector is one in which productivity has risen massively as wages have been cut. At the same time, the “elite” have increased their take more than ten-fold in both sectors, for no reason I can gauge other than opportunist greed. We hear the excuses every day – global competition, the need to keep overpaid ‘talent’ and the rest – but they are just excuses or threats.
We can’t ‘afford’ jobs for our kids or decent wages and conditions for our cops and the public sector, yet an ACPO or GP can ‘earn’ enough in a couple of years to match a lifetime spent on welfare – perhaps in one. The rich rake it in so fast they have bought our politicians. Our working-class games are now played for greater ‘wages’ for an hour than international players received in a year (and they didn’t retire but ran greengrocers or in the case of my hero a barbers’ shop – he was a crap barber).
Economics is no help to us in sorting any of this out – indeed all ‘experts’ seem to be in the pay of the rich. The world in which we can’t ‘afford’ to pay our cops or organise productive work at fair wages is ten times as “efficient” as it was when we had full employment (the golden age). This is a time for straight-talking. We have fucked up good and proper and need to admit this and get on with a New Deal. If the rich want to take their ball home to spite us let’s give them the Caymans and see how they get on without the rest of us.
The rich are not rich because they worked any harder of smarter than the rest of us. The biggest failure in policing has been in the rich being allowed to operate beyond the law and steal enough money to buy up politics. I’ve taught in business schools long enough to know the subject area doesn’t require any great smarts. All our current problems are about having the balls to stand up against unfairness and point out the Emperor isn’t naked but clothed in debt. The rich have been stripping away our assets for decades and we need to take them back and put the resources into productive work and a transparent money system.