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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Engineering Competent Government

You can't push rope
You can't pull concrete
Water runs downhill - usually
  I was once told that these are the most basic rules of engineering

It strikes me there may be analogs if anybody hopes to make government as reliable as engineering. Actually I suspect these rules go back further than the ancient Greeks so the "science" of government has a long way to go but you start where you are. So lets try.

prepaid grants don't work, prizes do
 - Grants mean you pay up front and hope the resuts will appear but human minds, being flexible (like rope)can't be pushed into a result, only pulled by the offer of reward. This fits with Professor Kealey's challenge to find any government funded research which has been profitable and my belief I have answered it with various technology prizes. Almost all government funding is through grants (prizes being open to all means they lose the power of holding a patronage monopoly) and I accept his evidence that they don't work, or even have a negative effect but that does not mean an entirely different state funding system doesn't - and the evidence for prizes, both state and private, seems overwhelming.

you can't hold society together by treating different groups differently
 - In the same way that concrete doesn't have the inherent strength to hold itself together putting state money into only one part of society or enforcing the laws so that they don't apply equally to everybody is bound to fracture society. That applies whether we are talking about the Unionists in Northern Ireland; blacks browns and other ethnics sverywhere; women (though a society which fractures entirely on gender has never existed); aristocracy; state employees V free market; or indeed the police arresting the EDL to protect far worse criminality by the Occupists; or the state media censoring UKIP and promoting the much smaller Green party.

States that spend more than they earn run out of other people's money
- This one is so obvious and so well reflected in the headlines as not to need explanation. However just as the instances where engineers find water doesn't run downhill is when they want it to, so sometimes those who have saved not spent find they lose too by the debauching of the currency.

Since the rules of mathematics workm in every discipline I suspect that many of the most basic rules of thumb in many disciplines will have analogs in the "science" of government. If the practice of government were not far more backward than that of any of the real science one would not expect relatively simple comparisons like this to work but it is. I would be interested in examples.

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