Thursday 19 May 2016

Taking in each other's washing

For thousands of years since we came down from the trees, human beings had to shift for themselves. If you couldn't find enough mongongo nuts or hunt down a deer, then you starved. We are all recognisably human, different from dogs and cats and even chimpanzees, yet we each have different abilities. One can run really fast and another can make the best arrow-heads while a third knows where the best honeycomb can be found. In the Olde Days, society depended on recognising that all god's chillun got a place in the choir: the guy who makes the arrowhead gets a share in the antelope pie.  It's a got a lot more complicated since then and there are quite peculiar ways of making a living. It's not only on Golgafrincham that there are telephone-sanitizers.

One peculiarity of modern Western economies is that The Effectives - those who make and do things - support a fid of people whose contribution isn't so obviously necessary, When the Irish IDA per$uade$ MegaCorp to set up a 1000 person call centre in Ballylinerental, they know, and their political masters know, that there will be more than a 1000 new jobs. The corner shop will take on extra staff to sell breakfast-rolls and newspapers, the centre's management will need a personal trainer or two, and there will be a helluva lot of telephones that will need regular sanitizing. It passes my understanding how the pay-scales are decided: my skills in analysing the chicken genome don't seem to command the same money as the VP Sales in MegaCorp who doesn't sell anything; he just encourages other people to sell things. I'm not naive enough to suppose that if I urge you, my people, to analyse more genomes, then I'll start pulling in the big money; it doesn't work like that.

But leaving aside the inequality, inequity and iniquity of pay-scales, it beggars belief that Ireland Inc. is carrying 300,000 public sector employees.
Which according to the OECD [above] is about 25% of the workforce. You prolly can't read the headings so I've arrowed IRL - we're between Poland and the UK who have very different economies and pay-scales but the same proportion of government dependants. That's sort of heartening, shows that our nepotistic feather-bedding is neither the worst nor unique. The antidote to all these functionaries is to reflect on the Indian Civil Service ICS which, from 1858 [end of The Mutiny and the East India Company] until 1947 [independence, partition and the end of the Raj], ran India, which then had a population of 300 million. And how big was the ICS?? About 1,000 men! - pro-rata from our times you'd expect about 300,000 * 300m/4.5m ~= 20million.  Even at the end, in 1947, the manpower of the ICS was just 980 people about half of which were 'European'.  A nice job if you could get it - which was difficult because you had to pass a highly competitive examination. You still do!

If I want to claim petrol money for a jaunt to Dublin to see my mates an item of CPD [continuous personal development - much beloved by modern bureaucrats], the application has to be signed by 3 people and the cheque authorised by another 3. They can't all be strictly necessary; can we not trust the authority of the Head of Department without having her overseen by the Head of School?  And so on through the whole country.  Even in the private sector.  A neighbour was explaining why Keenan's of Borris the local engineering firm has declared bankruptcy.  Apparently, every time an employee went on maternity leave the company took on another worker in the office; but when the new mum returned to her desk they were too kind-hearted to let the temp [who was inevitably the cousin, niece, daughter of someone] go. Miriam Lord, political commentator from the Irish Times dug up a hilarious pun for those public representatives who recently became part of Enda Kenny's minority government "There are Independents and Endapendents"

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