The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.
Although they have been around for a while overseas, a recent innovation by Australian Universities are Schools of Government.
On one level, you can’t fault our University administrator entrepreneurs:
- A government policy that funds anyone who wants to study;
- Performance measurement by quantity of graduates rather than quality if graduates;
- A low marginal cost of production where there is no need for labs or other high fixed cost infrastructure beyond a lecture room; and most importantly
- Asymmetric returns for the administrator entrepreneurs. If things go well, they are promoted and paid more. If things go badly, they are still promoted and paid more.
But putting all this aside, it is the non-teaching stuff that these schools of government offer, and that we tax payers fund that frequently raises eye brows. Consider for example the work of Martin Bortz, Research Fellow, Melbourne School of Government. Please note that the Melbourne School of Government is part the University of Melbourne family, and the University of Melbourne is one of Australia’s best Universities (at least Spartacus understands it is).
In a recent opinion piece for the Mandarin, a website for:
public sector leaders and executives and the many stakeholders and suppliers interested in their work
Mr Bortz has proposed the establishment of The Department of the Opposition, for the benefit of democracy of course:
This (Department of the Opposition) would be set up in a similar way to current departments. This department would house a few hundred (or, maybe, a few thousand) public servants. The remit of this group would be to consider the incumbent government’s policies, and to also deliver detailed and costed policy options that represent a workable alternative.
How neat and simple. A few thousand public servants “to consider the incumbent government’s policies, and to also deliver detailed and costed policy options that represent a workable alternative”.
That’s right. A couple of thousand un-elected public servants whose job it is to criticise government policy and to offer alternatives. How is this actually democratic? But more to the point, how is this actually different to what currently happens in varying degrees?
Another point to consider is, what if the policies of the government of the day are the best options available or are the will of the populous? Will the Department of the Opposition recommend their decommissioning? Spartacus somehow doubts that.
How puerile of Mr Bortz to believe that there is some universal policy truth rather than government policy being a matter of trade-offs. Perhaps Mr Bortz consider the following advice of an academic discussing the role of expert policy advisors:
Knowledge has a fundamental role to play in both politics and policy, particularly in our hyper-rational age. Because of this, it is necessary to be vigilant about which versions of reality should influence the policy process.
While expert knowledge often has the veneer of legitimacy, we need to be mindful that it represents a particular worldview, and is written for a particular purpose. Though this may suggest some kind of conspiratorial manipulation of those in key positions of power, there are clearly limits to the extent to which expert versions of the world can shape how policymakers think (and, thus, how society is structured).
Spartacus would like to emphasise a particular sentance in the prior:
we need to be mindful that it (expert knowledge) represents a particular worldview, and is written for a particular purpose
Do Cats happen to know who wrote the prior? It was the same Marty Bortz writing in the Conversation.
The word fremdschämen comes to mind.