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Government Distrust

This is the second instalment of this series. Each instalment will be published independently and can be read independently. We are tackling head-on the 6 reasons why you should distrust governments, reasons that were kindly provided by the apparatchiks of The OECD A Bureaucratic Organization You Should Know.

Some time ago, we published the article In Government We Distrust and promised we will continue in that direction because of the massive amount of useless information (i.e. job security) that the apparatchiks from the OECD created. If you are interested in the original OECD article, search for the "Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development", specifically "Trust in Government". Let's make it happen.

OVERVIEW

In the original article the OECD explained that only about 40% of people trust governments and then it proceeds to enumerate 6 areas where governments can win trust back and the specific steps those governments should take. It goes without saying that no politician in their right mind would do anything even remotely close to what the OECD suggests in candid terms because that would be political suicide. However, this long litany of would-be "rationales" is perfect for our purposes because it allows us to highlight exactly what governments are doing and doing wrong on purpose. Thank you OECD for making our jobs of debunking governments so much easier! We could not have done it without you.

RESPONSIVENESS

The OECD says about governments:

  • Trust in government can depend on citizen's experiences when receiving public services.
  • Under tight fiscal constraints and growing expectations, governments are increasingly engaging with citizens to ensure quality, responsiveness and ultimately trust in public services.
  • exploring how improved service delivery can boost confidence and trust in the public sector.

Although it is absolutely true that most people judge a government by the interaction they have with it through their so-called "services" (i.e. monopolies and/or unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork), people are not actually interacting with the government; they are interacting with the bureaucracy and this makes all the difference in the world. You see, dear reader, the government itself (i.e. politicians) are not interactive at all as they do absolutely nothing for you to the extreme that you can't even talk to them. In a sense it is pathetic to think that if people would actually interact with the government, their trust would plummet from 40% down to zero. From this perspective it is a perversely good thing for politicians that people interact with bureaucrats however awful this experience may be.

Trust, on the other hand, is a different story. In general terms trust has nothing to do with the delivery of "services" because people intuitively understand that this is a bureaucratic domain and therefore different rules apply. Inefficiency is king and most of the time this is not traced back to politicians. Trust on governments can only be earned by the actions of governments over long periods of time, not by routine "service" providers. As these actions are key; they are usually critical to politicians and as such not directed towards the "public good" because politicians come first. Therefore as the nature of these actions cannot be changed, politicians simply cannot earn the trust of people. It is utterly pointless to try to expedite bureaucracy if key initiatives for the true "better good" are not happening (if you subscribe to this socialistic theory).

The second paragraph is very illuminating indeed. It is also deceiving. It sets-up the tone by developing an excuse up-front. It states that bureaucrats (not politicians) have too little money and too much to do hence making the readers the unwilling participants in this pseudo-explanation by assigning guilt to them since it is them that have "growing expectations". Therefore, whatever happens next would seem like a logical consequence of this false (but compelling) excuse. What happens next is simply the offloading of tasks that bureaucracies should do onto people… which are already paying through the unholy trinity (tax, borrow and print) for goods and services they did not ask and do not want. And so this offloading, this monitoring and enforcement of quality and responsiveness is passed to people. If they fail it is their fault.

Of course, politicians conveniently disguise the fact that when money was plentiful and expectations were not growing, government services still sucked and no measure of government monitoring at the time was able to solve this problem. How convenient. Further following down this route, the OECD believes that the fact that governments offload monitoring to people will somehow boost trust. They are, of course, deluded. People are getting pissed-off not trusting. From a peoples' perspective, not only are they stuck with incompetent, ineffective, inefficient and -more importantly- undesired bureaucracy, but now they have to police them in their own time and with their own money. Sure, that will make them trust the government. This is just another example of classic apparatchik thinking. When in doubt, offload and when ugly, spin it.

Then, we have the idea that improved "service" delivery will somehow boost confidence and trust. We would like to know what were the apparatchiks of the OECD smoking when they wrote this one, because it seem to have been something quite strong. The point is that we don't want those so-called "services". If they are "improved" it only means that they were computerized, which brings the added disadvantage that now not only we have to submit to the tyranny of bureaucratic processes we hate, but on top of that we are now dealing with inflexible machines! Think about it. Who hasn't had to deal with brain-dead voice recognition systems or undecipherable web interfaces? Yeah… that will boost confidence and trust…for sure.

MARKETING PLUG-IN

And then the OECD inserts their own "product" marketing in the process by pushing their own "Observatory on Public Sector Innovation" (OPSI) by making up possible excuses for its use. This has nothing to do with responsiveness and everything to do with apparatchiks working really hard to justify their salaries. The general idea being:

  • Governments need to find innovative solutions to respond to fast changing needs with limited resources in order to preserve responsiveness and a client focus.

They can do this through…drums please… the OPSI and if your follow the hyperlink… it will take you nowhere because it is broken. We guess that they did not innovate fast enough. And what is this OPSI they speak about? Essentially it is a showcase of useless processes facilitating dealing with useless government processes which are.. you guessed it… useless to begin with. It makes the work of apparatchiks easier but it does nothing to spare you the aggravation of actually having to go through the useless process. If you are actually interested in the OPSI, it is buried quite deep in the OECD website and it is easier if you go to Google and search for it. So much for usefulness and popularity.

After this deviation, let's return to their basic premise. We believe a translation is in order. It reads:

  • Governments need to find new and faster ways to force people to do more bureaucracy (and hence enhancing dependency) using new dirt cheap technologies in order to preserve the perception of usefulness hence retaining their jobs.

Clear enough now?

Let's walk through this. Governments may be searching for "innovative solutions" because as technology changes they realized that their public perception is one of dinosaurs. This is not acceptable by politicians because it subtracts votes (who wants to be a static politician instead of a dynamic one?). Hence, they must update technologically. However, there is a problem. As old things are automated, it becomes patently clear that less and less bureaucrats are necessary and this is not acceptable for bureaucrats. Hence, these new solutions must demand new processes so that the jobs of all existing bureaucrats may be protected. This is a win-win situation between bureaucrats, politicians, "intelligence services" and "law enforcement". Basically, the more information they have the happier they are (see for example They Want Everything). Furthermore, now bureaucrats can demand higher wages because of their superior "technological" skills!

The issue of "limited resources" is real. No politician wants to spend on bureaucracy more than the absolutely necessary to prevent unionized headaches. You see, spending on bureaucracy does not buy votes. Money must be re-directed where it will do the most good…at election time. But even this is a win-win scenario because politicians can now claim that their "new initiatives" are "cost effective".

The issue of "responsiveness" is also true. They must respond quickly not to look like dinosaurs. Their response is a bureaucratic survival instinct and has absolutely nothing to do with real people's needs.

And lastly we have the famous "client focus". Actually, we are sick and tired of hearing that we are not citizens; we are now "clients". Well, if that is how they want to play it, then we should be able to walk away and not "buy" their product… whatever snake oil or magic beans or mystery cure for all your ailments they happen to be selling. They want "clients", fair enough, but then we want free markets. Let them compete with their useless products and their pathetically inefficient service head-to-head with for-profit companies and let see what happens. No? Why not? What are they afraid of? Losing their jobs for incompetents and useless? Oh… never crossed our mind.

This section of the OECD website has absolutely nothing to do with government trust and everything to do ensuring bureaucratic jobs.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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