I am much taken with the idea of reality even though I’m very aware that, for most of us, perception can, unfortunately, be as important as fact. I am, after all, a Spurs supporter of many years standing and have always consoled myself with the idea that, at least, they played lovely football. This latter concept, not always so.
So it was interesting to read this week that a number of local authorities have come to the realisation that outsourcing many of their services to the private sector is more costly and less effective than providing these themselves; something, it seems that they are, again, starting to do.
In addition, the privatisation of the railways has resulted, contrary to what was promised, in an increase in public subsidy while the energy companies, well, perhaps best not even to go there. Especially now that many of these vital resources are now in overseas ownership and where that ownership is, effectively, an arm of the state. If this should sound anti business, I would remind anyone who takes the trouble to read this, that I have run my own business for 16 years; albeit a one man band.
What I’m trying to show that the conventional business model of growth, acquisition and greater growth within a free market system is insufficient of a model for everything. Furthermore, it isn’t even a completely free market either in this country or globally. So this simple categorisation of the State as sluggish, bureaucratic and interfering compared to a private sector that is dynamic, innovative and competitive may not be the common sense truth that is appears. Should you wish to see the evidence of this, I would recommend a book, “The Entrepreneurial State”.
Interestingly, in this discussion, during the run up to the last Olympics, according to a BBC radio programme, it was the Civil Service that held it together, even during a change of government, and a private company which failed to deliver the promised security. So much so, that the army had to step in. The programme went on to quote Lord Heseltine who, when he was a minister, asked trade associations and businesses for examples of red tape. There were no responses to his request. Furthermore, a later initiative, the Red Tape Challenge was also reported as eliciting an underwhelming response.
So, when we consider how we wish to have our country run, perhaps looking at reality and not myth and perception might not go amiss.