GOVERNMENTS don’t use common sense any more. Instead they employ consultants and set up reviews and enquiries.
Common sense, of course, can be highly subjective. One person’s common sense can be idiocy to someone else.
As the famed philosopher Voltaire (pictured) informed us, “Common sense is not so common.”
What seems to be common sense may in fact be highly dangerous.
What can seem reasonable at one level can be disastrous at another. Common sense tells us to ban Muslims to combat terrorism and to mistreat refugees to stop them invading our borders, for instance.
So substituting consultancies for common sense might be a good thing at first glance. That is if you are prepared to listen to their advice, which most governments are not prepared to do.
Appointing consultants to look at a particular problem can also be a way of passing the buck, delaying a decision or simply burying the problem.
It takes a lot of pressure off public servants who would normally do the work and are looking to pass the buck.
And to politicians, it may appeal as a great way of keeping public service numbers down.
In this sense consultancies can be a handy tool for do-nothing governments.
Other consultancies can be downright daft. They can be created at the whim of a politician pursuing a particular hobby horse and looking for ammunition, trying to appear useful or just trying to look good.
Weird consultancies are a bit like weird PhD topics and the weird students and professors who invent them.
Consultancies can also unnecessarily cover old ground. When a consultant hands in a report it gets filed on top of a heap of previous reports about the same subject.
I did a quick internet search to find out how many consultancies have there been to address violence against women.
Would you believe at least 13 in Australia and at least seven in Papua New Guinea. Has violence against women stopped or been reduced? Of course not. If anything it’s getting worse.
Consultancy reports are also great things to support a particular view. A good consultant will list all the nice cherries to pick in the executive summary. That way the politicians don’t need to bother reading the rest of the report.
Who should we blame for this stupidity?
But I don’t think we should blame consultants. I’ve done a few consultancies myself. The work is well paid with great fringe benefits and lovely hotels to stay in. You’d be a mug to knock it back if it’s offered.
It is only when you travel from that initial enthusiasm that you that you’re doing something worthwhile and arrive at the end when everything you’ve said is ignored or filed away without action do you realise the futility of all your hard work.
That’s when you can walk away and refuse to do any more consultancies or when you realise that you might have stumbled on a great income generator with no real risks and accountability.
There are now thousands of consultants who have woken up to this golden yet infertile egg. A lot of them work for companies set up specifically to milk governments for all they are worth. In our predatory and venal world, consultancy is a perfect fit.
One of the places where companies prey are overseas aid programs in countries like Papua New Guinea. It’s the ultimate form of boomerang aid and makes up a large component of that aid.
It’s also a lot easier than tackling a problem. Instead of putting money into fixing hospitals, building schools, repairing and building infrastructure it’s simpler to spend the money on a consultancy to report on the parlous state of those things.
Consultancies are also, coincidentally, a lot more comfortable for the people administering them. They can remain in their air-conditioned offices banging off reams of fluff on their computers without getting mud on their shoes.
One of the most loathsome forms of consultancy is ripping off emergency aid. Charities are really good at this. A consultancy to deliver emergency aid is ripe for plunder. And when the corrupt politicians have creamed their cut off the top, very little may get to the deserving victims of the disaster.
Some governments do emergency aid well, especially Australia, but where it is really effective is when it’s done by government agencies like the military.
It’s a funny way to run things. Actually, it’s not funny, it’s tragic. But that, it seems, is how the world works.
I’m retired now but if you hear of any interesting consultancies up for grabs, I’m your man. I can bullshit about just about anything until the cows come home.