Failure Spots

In April last year I wrote this:

The thing that always enrages me about governments is they are doubly shit at performing vital state functions: murdering scumbags go free and innocent people get banged up; police harass citizens over trivial matters while serious crime remains a problem; jihadists are let into the country to carry out terrorist attacks but Canadian right-wing journalists are turned back at the airport and banned for life.


I  may have said this before, but the reason nobody minds draconian laws and policing in Singapore is because it works: the city is clean, safe, and orderly. What Britain (and a lot of other places) has managed is to have all the drawbacks of an overbearing state but none of the advantages. What appalls people so much about the latest case of people who’ve lived peacefully in the UK for decades being deported is not simply the injustice, which is bad enough. It’s that at the same time we cannot deport lunatic hate preachers from the Middle East with a hook in place of a right hand because it’s against their human rights. Oh, and we need to pay for his four wives and eighteen children, too. I exaggerate, but not by much. If the state is not going to do any good, they at least ought not to do harm.

When you live in the developing world you learn not to expect much from the state institutions. After all, they are often hopelessly corrupt and the people working in them unmotivated, untrained, and poorly paid. But a feature of the decline of western civilisation is government institutions (and companies: see my posts on Boeing, for example) losing their core competence while remaining ruthlessly effective when it comes to irrelevant nonsense. Here’s a great example:

As the name suggests, Public Health England is the government body charged with overseeing public health in England and Wales. As Chris Snowdon has documented, they have been instrumental in lobbying for legislation as to how much sugar, salt, and fat should be in every item of food, how large restaurant portions should be, and how supermarkets should arrange their shelves. Yet they’ve presided over a situation where people’s distrust of vaccines and government authorities has led to an increase in measles outbreaks. As Snowdon says, you had one job.


11 thoughts on “Failure Spots

  1. Competent people will reassert themselves. It’s just that their competency might not be in fields conducive to a particularly pleasant society.

  2. David Attenborough is being reported as saying that maybe the EU has meddled a bit too much in the everyday lives of ordinary people. I can announce that the UK can now safely leave the EU because we have successfully onshored the excessive compulsive meddling.

  3. “David Attenborough is being reported as saying that maybe the EU has meddled a bit too much in the everyday lives of ordinary people.”

    Cue him ‘retiring’ from the BBC in 3-2-1…………….can’t have one of the public faces of the BBC being guilty of Wrongspeak now can we?

  4. Re Measles: the lack of vaccine uptake is partially due to the MMR triple vaccine being pushed by GPs, etc. Whilst there are no scientific concerns about the individual Measles, Mumps & Rubella vaccines, all of which have been shown to be safe over decades, it’s the triple hit which alarms some people. Overloading an immature immune system with all 3 at once might, just might, be a factor in some post-vaccination problems.
    GPs will give the three separately if you insist, although obviously it requires 3 surgery appointments (& therefore 2 extra chances of catching other bugs in those dens of disease).

  5. It bugs me when people report a burglary, the coppers show up two days later, ask a few questions, shrug and scratch their bums. Or when Finnish youths (I think it was them) commit a string of home invasions in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, the coppers are too overstretched to do much about it, but warn homeowners not to keep a cricket bat by the door because that’ll get you in trouble.
    But post an ill-considered tweet and suddenly they’ve got all the resources in the world . . .

  6. As Ed P points out, a goodly part of this can be laid at the door of the ‘My way or the highway, serf!’ attitude of the NHS.

    Understandable from their point, though. Why, if you offer people choice, they might start demanding it all the time, and then where would a vast, incompetent bureaucracy be..?

  7. “Losing their core competence while remaining ruthlessly effective when it comes to irrelevant nonsense”

    You mean something like THIS?

  8. Is it only anti-vaxxing that’s to blame?

    I went to Manchester a few years ago, was startled to see signs up around the place advising people to get checked out for tuberculosis. The M1 really is a time machine.

  9. it’s the triple hit which alarms some people

    Oh, rubbish Ed. Anti vaxxers won’t let anyone with a needle of anything anywhere near their darling little tots. How does three vaccines at one cause autism (which is what is claimed)? They’re not just alarmed, they’re delusional.

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