Friday, August 08, 2008

Everyone Against The Planners

Part of my inchoate ‘philosophy’ is small c conservatism .Unimpressed by shiny new ideas,I am implacably attached to what provably works, however improbable the invention of say , The House of Lords , might appear. This sort of conservativism has recently acquired contemporary resonance despite its antiquity.
Kieron O Hara, in his superb, “The Conservative Tradition” ,traces a lineage from sceptical classical philosophers like Phyrrus and Sextus ,through to Michel; Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92). This Renaissance thinker had views on human presumption that lead him to castigate those who thought they knew best how to govern .He said : "It is easy enough in a nation to generate contempt for its ancient customs : no man has ever tried to do so without reaching his goal; but for replacing the conditions you have ruined with better ones , many who have tried to do that have come to grief” We might broaden the point by saying the wisdom, in a system, is not necessarily known to any individual .Those who claim to be qualified to redesign it (Social planners we would say) are therefore to be resisted .
In the 20th century Hayek also denied the efficacy of central planning ,but valued low level decisions if they were short term with expert local knowledge.“ The shipper who earns his living by using otherwise empty of half filled journeys ..or the arbitrageur who gains from local differences in commodity prices - are all performing eminently useful functions based on special knowledge in the fleeting moment not known to others ". Information , inaccessible to bureaucrats , is in millions of Mayfly judgements and for Hayek the sum of all this was price .Forget please the Neo Liberalism that ensues ,just hold in your mind the impossibility of a sufficiently responsive planner achieving an equivalent optimum.
Today I bought the “New Scientist “ and the arresting front cover exclaimed, “ Hands Off , Why things work better when you let go !”. Naturally my curiosity was piqued and sure enough Dirk Helbing ( a Swiss Physicist ) has discovered something oddly familiar.
"In many situations it is better to give up some of our controls . Often the system discovers better outcomes unlike anything our minds would imagine …” uh huh… !
For example General Motors were not able to maximise the use of their paint booths . The random arrival of trucks and unpredictable maintenance resisted a programmed assignment. The solution was to give the machines simple rules and let them ”bid” for the jobs .The results looked peculiar but General Motors saved $1million in paint alone at one plant
This healthy respect for complex unpredictability has been directed at Traffic lights .At the moment lights are pre-programmed by engineers to alter their phases at given times . Helbing gave the lights simple operating rules and left them to organise themselves with sensors relaying information about traffic flow what other lights are doing .. Again the results can look very odd, but journey times , in Dresden , were reduced by 'devolving decisions to the lights'
Boris Johnson is surely the small c conservative non pareiil . He has launched a consultation on scrapping the congestion zone extension, and today we read ,congestion in the capital generally is back at its old levels Journey times are actually longer. There has been no easing of congestion in the Western zone since the charge was rolled out ( says TFL) , and Boris has encouragingly described Ken`s baby as a “blunt instrument ..”. In a package of measures he promises to re-phase traffic lights i.e. leave them green longer .Not bad Boris but what about consulting Dirk Helbing and adopting a truly conservative and yet brilliantly modern solution . Scrap the whole thing and let the lights and drivers decide.

18 comments:

Little Black Sambo said...

And would a small-c conservative have made a new law about drinking on the underground?

hatfield girl said...

What 'inchoate' philosophy N?

You're right-wing; perfectly good stance.

Newmania said...

LBS....well I don`t see why not especially , its not the same thing as a Liberal and in all my years in London I have witnessed a couple of pretty terrifying booze fueled scenes.
I thought it was a sensible move and the freedom of the rest of us ciounts as well. What he wouold never do is ban smoking in pubs becayue that is excatly the sort of resource he should value .


I am not just right wing HG , I am also interested in tradition , conserving and coninuity. Somehtimes this is against right wing in the sense of ?"Let the market decide"


Thanks for reading I`m afraid it was a bit of a self indulgent post

Philipa said...

in all my years in London I have witnessed a couple of pretty terrifying booze fueled scenes.

You should take more water with it, Newms. And stop scaring the locals!

Auntie Flo' said...

The truth of this piece was brought home to me at the recent funeral of former member of my staff.

The young man who'd died was just 23, he'd been killed in a tragic motorbike accident, such a waste.

Hundreds of young people were at the funeral, all dressed in bright pink, the customary tie colour of the young man we were burying.

As I walked up the path to the crem, dozens of bikers roared past me, their bikes festooned with pink ribbons and bows. Don't expect I shall know anyone here, I thought to myself.

Yet how wrong I was, when I joined the queues outside the chapel a chorus of voices greeted me.

"Hi Flo! How ya doin?'

I knew almost every one of them because they'd worked for my recruitment company after they'd left school. Most had been unskilled workers and done very mundane work to earn their 'stripes': working on the flightwash at the airport, as cleaners, kitchen assistants, as waiting staff or porters.

The heartening thing is that they all had got better jobs: one was running his own roofing business, one was managing a bike shop, some were office staff, one was a chef and so on.

Those mundane jobs they did when they left school, the sort of jobs school leavers have cut their teeth on since time immemorial, proved to be a training ground and stepping stone to better things for all of them.

The tragedy is that my clients, and many other employers, rarely employ young teenagers any longer, because the health and safety regulations and the cost of insurance shut off so many jobs to young people these days.

Anyway, few employers want to employ young people who are still wet behind the ears with a country full of mature overseas migrant workers to choose from.

UK consequently has a huge problem with youth unemployment and the problems that go with it.

So nulab's attempt to micro manage unpredictability out of the job market and open up our borders has resulted in the gross unintended consequence of putting a whole generation of young people out of work.

Blue Eyes said...

Drinking on the tube is in itself quite aggressive behaviour. LBS may be a resilient person but spare a thought for the damsel. One person drinking a glass of chilled muscadet is not the same as a group downing tins of stella. As a small c conservative I have not problem in restricting activities which infringe on peoples' freedom to go about their daily business without being accosted by aggressive people.

It is noticeable how little reaction there has been to the Boris booze ban outside the libertarian blogosphere.

Blue Eyes said...

* but I cannot type when tired

Newmania said...

I cannot type at all BE I think I approve of the drink ban becasue it was not something with a cultural meaning or indeed anything at all.
The problem is banned activities are always the concern of a minority whoch is how control is spread. You have to defend things that you do not personally care about .

I have to say this is where the Liberals are so useless, ID cards they notice but they canot wait to bann hunting and smoking.

In this case I see little to lose and Boris fairly signalled that he wanted to do soemthing about the incivility of London. Overall I supprort him.

Newmania said...

Flo you might say 2,000,000 new jobs for migrants 2,000,000 on incapacity benefit. Thats an interesting comment

Newmania said...

Phillipa..... ha ha .

Philipa said...

A very powerful comment, Flo that needs repeating. Can I put it as a post on my own blog? I'd like to give your comments the widest audience I can.

?

Auntie Flo' said...

Philipa said...
A very powerful comment, Flo that needs repeating. Can I put it as a post on my own blog? I'd like to give your comments the widest audience I can.

?

Certainly, Philipa, be my guest.

Auntie Flo' said...

Newmania said...

Flo you might say 2,000,000 new jobs for migrants 2,000,000 on incapacity benefit.



You could indeed say that. Didn't that cologned cloud of self delight, James Purrrrnell, admit that incapacity benefit is being abused by his government to mask unemployment?

Purrrrnell was challenged about this during his Andy Marr interview, and tried to deny that he'd said this. JP stated that he'd been talking about other governments (i.e. Tory governments).

He was, however, challenged by Marr who stated that Purrrnell had indeed admitted that this government does it.

Newmania said...

Oh I think that is taken as a fact Flo however this goverment are not the first one to abuse thbe system to disguise unemployment

Philipa said...

Thanks, Flo. I'm playing with scheduling posts over at mine so it's in the pipeline :-)

Little Black Sambo said...

Rowdy boozing on the tube did not require a particular law. It would have been covered by existing general laws.
Philipa, how can putting stuff on your blog reach a wide audience if we don't know what the blog is CALLED? What is it called? (I have asked about this before.)

Newmania said...

Rowdy boozing on the tube did not require a particular law. It would have been covered by existing general laws.


Why was it not then ?

Little Black Sambo said...

Don't ask me. Ask those responsible for enforcing the (existing) laws.

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