Wednesday 8 March 2023

"If the Campbell affair triggered a broad discussion on what to do about the public service, that would be a positive outcome."

"The sacking of Rob Campbell from his role as chair of Te Whatu Ora/Health NZ ... [is] symptomatic of a wider problem, which is the politicisation of the public service. This politicisation is not necessarily party-political in nature. Rather, it is that the public service has developed its own idiosyncratic mindset.
    "At the risk of overgeneralising, the public service usually prefers central government programmes to local solutions. It believes in the power of the state and distrusts markets. It also works towards maintaining and growing itself, even when its failures become impossible to ignore...
    "What a functional public service can achieve was demonstrated in the reforms that rescued the New Zealand economy in the 1980s. Though politicians get credited for them, they would not have happened without the foresight and preparedness of qualified and committed senior public servants.
    "A future reform-minded Government will find it much harder than the Labour Government did in the 1980s.
    "There are not enough people inside the public service today who could design and lead such reforms. On the contrary, we can expect large parts of the public service to resist evidence-based reforms that might upset the status quo.... The best policy ideas are worthless if they cannot be practically implemented.
    "Public service reform is needed to address the challenges facing New Zealand. If the Campbell affair triggered a broad discussion on what to do about the public service, that would be a positive outcome."

~ Oliver Hartwich, from his post 'Public service reboot needed'


Tom Hunter said...

Hmmmmm.... I'm not sure that the word "politicisation" is actually what's happening here. It's more a combination of traditional bureaucracy with money, which is actually a criticism the Left have made against the reforms of the Wellington bureaucracy for almost forty years not.

The argument is that it did more than just wipe out dinosaur government Departments and Ministries by privatising them (which they obviously did not agree with but which I fully supported and still support), but they also tried to inject the private sector into what remained - including arguments for matching the private sector in salaries and corporate bureaucracy. I have to admit that as I gaze upon the fantastic growth of that bureaucracy in the last thirty years, complete with eye-watering salaries that the private sector would struggle to match (I saw a KB comment the other day about some young "comms" tyro two years out of university wit an $80K salary and I look at my own Engineering son on the same and wonder at our future).

Perhaps you should read the following from good old Lefty (but self-aware)Danyl Mclauchlan in The Spinoff late last year as he laments the endless failures and uselessness of the modern Wellington bureaucracy that the cretinous Labour Party thought could implement its ideas, An administrative revolution

In 1994 the US historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch died, and a year later his final book The Revolt of the Elites was published. Lasch started his career as a socialist and ended it as a hard-to-categorise hybrid of anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist pro-environmental conservative. The revolting elites in his book are the professional managerial class: the educated technocrats who occupy a commanding position across post-industrial economies, not by direct ownership of capital or overt command of the political system but by managerial control of all our institutions. They run everything. I’ve written about the professional managerial class before – I don’t think you can understand 21st century politics without them – and for Lasch their most important qualities are: a) they’re a global class; b) they’re more concerned with the virtual and abstract than the physical, and, c) the primary purpose of their politics is therapeutic

Peter Cresswell said...

Yes, you make a good point.

It seems like something analagous with Scientism, i.e., an almost cargo cult belief in the trappings and modes of science, but transferred to bureaucratic, even when thoroughly inappropriate. Maybe we could dream up a pithy name for it?