Monday 13 September 2010

They’re moving in herds

When I was in school and involved in one of those teacher-inspired debates about nuclear disarmament and disarmament in general, and generally upsetting our teachers by saying it was a bad thing, one of the questions raised asked what would happen to the thousands employed in the defence industry. I always regarded this as a duff question but the answer given was every bit as naff. The honest answer would have been “they’ll have to find jobs elsewhere”, the answer proffered, by a teacher, was that they could make something like tractors instead. This is why upsetting teachers can be a good thing.

Fast forward to the present day and the TUC conference, where various delegates show every sign of inhabiting the same land of make believe. Apparently what we need to do is invest, though it’s a little unclear as to what with (since we don’t have any money) and what we’re supposed to invest in. People probably, that’s suitably vague.

One could argue that a strong and vibrant economy does far more to protect employee rights, as it requires employers to compete for their services, but in less certain times a Union can play a vital role against employer excess; those, for example, who might be tempted to sack their workforce on a Friday and re-employ them on a Monday at less favourable terms. However, I have no time for Unions promoting a fantasy world that makes product for the sake of making it, regardless of whether anyone wants or needs it. The private sector can’t afford such nonsense, you either make money or you don’t and you go out of business. But how does one objectively measure value in the public sector? The answer is you can’t, hence it becomes easier to indulge.

We have school classroom sizes of around 30 not because this is ideal, we’d like them smaller, but because that is what we can afford. I’d suggest we pay for all public services this way. Since what we can afford fluctuates, our spending might sometimes adjust accordingly. I have the greatest respect for many working in the public sector, some do a job the difficulty of which I can barely comprehend, but contrary to what we hear the cuts won’t bring an unfair burden; this is a burden that those in the private sector have had to bear alone for the past twelve months. Pay cuts, redundancies, employer pension contributions stopped. Welcome to the real world.