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A proposal for government

In the Times">Chris Darrow asks,

"What should we make of the failure of the Home Office to operate control orders properly, the MTAS computer fiasco at the NHS, and Ruth Kelly’s climbdown on home information packs?

Almost everyone has one of two responses. Some say that these are isolated failures in an otherwise acceptable record, others that they are evidence of a general incompetence that has a simple solution – to put different backsides on Cabinet chairs.

Almost everyone is wrong. There’s a third possible reaction: that these episodes (and there are countless others) show that centralised hierarchy is a terrible way of getting things done. Policy failures aren’t due to having the wrong personnel in charge. Nor are they exceptions to the rule of general competence. They are the inevitable result of bad organisational structure.

There are four lines of thinking that tell us this. One comes from Friedrich Hayek. Knowledge, he said, is inherently dispersed. No single minister or boss can know very much, so decentralisation is necessary to maximise our use of knowledge. The collapse of the Soviet Union proved him right. This raises the question: if a centrally planned economy is a stinking idea, why is a centrally planned health service or educational system a good one?". . .

The question is why have Brits forgotten these alternatives? This is what they were doing for a thousand years, building hospitals and Friendly Societies and schools, including grammar schools, all of them privately funded and run with pretty good results given more than 95% of the public could read by the late 19th century. Before decentralised management had a name, it was being successfully done.

In the interim, while trying to recover the management styles everyone has forgotten about, why not send Parliament on a long vacation and have members work half time? They would do less harm.