Saturday, 3 November 2012

Deft Definition?

Recently I saw a Teeshirt with a word and a definition of that word emblazoned on it that not only got my attention, but made me want to wear it. Some might be surprised to know that I do wear teeshirts, some of them with badges, some with labels and some with zany slogans that have caught my eye. Sadly, they didn't have my size with this one. It really did sum up neatly what seems to have gone wrong in all western governments. The Teeshirt slogan said -

Ineptocracy - (in-ep-toc'-ra-cy)

A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

It is, of course, easy to say that someone is not competent to undertake something. Especially in the technical fields. It is much less clearcut when one is looking at 'managing' something, since, as I have said many times, management is a skill  set of any and every profession, not a profession all on its own. That is where, I think, a large part of the problem sits. Once an organisation begins to expand, disconnects begin to develop between management and 'the rest' and worse, between supposedly interdependent sections. Suddenly one finds duplication of functions and activities and even active conflict of interests developing.

No where is this more apparent than in government. The 'management' of any national administration has become incredibly complex. So much so that the 'elected' ministers of state seldom have any actual grasp of what it is that their 'department' actually does to deliver whatever it is supposed to be doing. Most ministerial posts last, I'm told, an average of two years. As a professional in my own field, I can tell you it took that long for a new man joining us to figure out what we did, how we did it and to start 'flying solo.' But that, we are told, is why the real 'management' of any government department is in the hands of the "Permanent Under Secretary" to use the British term. He (or she) is supposed to handle the actual running of the Department, not the Minister who is really just a sort of figurehead allowed to make 'policy statements' from time to time. Of course, they read their briefing notes, ask for clarifications of matters raised by constituents, other MPs and in Cabinet, but the vast majority really haven't the faintest idea of how things actually get done at the 'interface' with the public. Nor, I suspect, do they have any idea of the massive duplications of effort right across the board.

I liked this word. It is accurate, it is descriptive, I certainly hope it finds a place in the next edition of the OED if it isn't already there. It does, in my view, describe with precision, the problem we have in any given government. The disconnect between the reality of the governed and the ideologies of the political classes has never, in my humble opinion, been greater. If Plato were writing his seminal work on government, "The Republic," today, I think he would add it to his list of states of government. The only question is where in his list? As he put them in order of - autocracy - democracy - oligarchy - autocracy, I suspect it would have to be coupled with 'oligarchy.'

Perhaps we now live in an Oligarchic Ineptocracy.

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