Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another reason for small government

As a new public servant I have discovered what I would call the ‘baseline’ person. They don’t seek to challenge the status quo, they all seem to desire the ‘normal’ life – a house, two cars a pool out on the city fringe. If you tell them you did anything out of the ordinary is immediately received with absolute shock. Mountain biking – shock. “Isn’t that dangerous?” You have longish curly hair – shock. You eat rice that comes wrapped in a leaf – shock. (insert anything that hasn’t recently been on Today Tonight here) – shock.

I am going somewhere with this. Public servants seem to be, either by selection or through indoctrination, reluctant to challenge anything. Also, given the ‘worker’ mentality and fairly widespread unionism, I would suggest that most would be Labor voters.

This leads me to two interesting conclusions.
1. The reluctance to challenge things make them highly likely to vote for the sitting political party, and
2. if that political party is Labor, then the this likelihood is greatly increased.

Therefore, there is a self-fulfilling process happening. Labor governments by their nature prefer more government intervention, thus need a larger government. The more people they employ, the more voters they get indoctrinated, thereby reinforcing their position.

When a challenging party that believes in small government comes along, there is a massive pool of workers who, now indoctrinated, also feel like there job is threatened if the government is going to downsize.

Maybe this goes some way to explaining the Labor dominance in the States. Maybe it helps to explain the failure to get widespread support to dispose of States altogether. There are 1.3million State employees in the country, but only 400,000 employees in the federal and local governments combined.

Then again, maybe I have just seen a representative sample of a much broader population. Given that I have spent the past 10 years on the fringes, rather than in ‘mainstream’ society, this might just be my first real introduction to the silent majority, the baseline person.


  1. I have got a shirt that says quite the opposite.
    In my opinion this problem affects the whole society. The majority is reluctant to challenges therefore those people fear change. They seek protection of the status quo because it gives them the security they are used to have. Nonetheless facing challenges of the present and the furture with the remedies of the past won't be able to help to strive forward.
    It won't deliver results we bare desperatley in insecure times like these.

  2. With my experience in the public sector most of what you have said is not true. The people in science from what I can determine are probably Labor supporters by default, however are more prone to swing. Some of them are status quo people, however if they stay status quo their funding is cut, however if they are radical they are fired. This could be based on the department I worked for. I worked in the Science and agricultural departments, and here cut backs in spending is a regular occurrence. In fact the science departments have been so cut back that these days one whole four storey building is occupied by no more than 20 people. The lack of funding only tends to sustain these departments and not drive them forward for new discovery and innovation. Perhaps you are right when it comes to not wanting to change the status quo, that the people who make the decisions on cut backs and funding refuse to look at their own department and find it easier to cut back on departments that are not located within their building, like science.
    I have heard of no cut backs in these areas during the GFC, and I am assuming it is because they cannot be trimmed back any further. When the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is over and the Global Fuel Crisis (GFC2) returns, the Global Environmental Crisis takes hold people will discover the most terrifying of the GFC's siblings a Global Food Crisis. When countries start to cut back on their food exports to ensure their own population does not starve. This has already happened in India, where they have restricted the export of rice (their staple) to make it more affordable among the lower classes. Science research into crop adaptation to cope with climate change needs to be implemented now, before a Global Food Crisis quickly changes to a Global Famine Crisis.
    I apologise for the drastic change from one topic to another, however to reiterate one thing that many people in DPI have suspected for a while. The administrative departments in town where decisions on funding are decided are not where funding cuts are implemented. In short my theory is that status quo people are borne out the administrative side of the government, and are motivated by politics not business. If they don’t do anything radical to offend voters they are doing a good job.

  3. Thank for the thoughts Mr Anonymous. Yes, I agree the the science types in government, and others who pursue academic interests, do generally like to enter into political debate a little more.

    You are also spot on about any radicals in government and I like you final paragraph - totally agree. I have a friend who I would consider pretty mainstream, who he tried to bring some reason to government decisions on planning and development. His reports, which would roughly convey the message the increased development in a particular region would come at an environmental cost, apparently were repeatedly stuck in the bottom draw. Nothing would get in the way of the ideaology of the party in power. He was shuffled around the department until he gave up trying to change things and returned to life outside the public service.