The Light-Bulb

My father was a headmaster, and his school had a caretaker (janitor to Americans), called Mr. Thomas. He was a permanent employee, and as much a part of the school as the teachers. Some of those were goof-offs, but Mr. Thomas was as faithful and dedicated as a warrior-monk. If a light-bulb went, he would probably be the first to see it; but if not, as soon as someone told him, he would replace it.

It is my impression that nowadays, the local education authority would centrally contract all maintenance out to a company. But that company would not employ a Mr. Thomas direct; there would be additional layer, probably at least one manpower agency or perhaps a whole chain of them, ending up not with a Mr. Thomas but with fly-by-nights whose main concern was not with replacing light-bulbs but with selling them.

How did anyone ever imagine that this would be cheaper? Instead of paying Mr. Thomas a wage, the school or education authority now has to cough up enough money to pay the shareholders and managers of the maintenance company, plus the shareholders and managers of the manpower firm, perhaps in several layers. With so many rent-seekers to feed like chicks in a nest, this is bound to cost ten times as much. When they told us it would be cheaper, what they really meant was that it would generate income for the friends and relatives of the politicians. It was a patronage ploy, like putting them on the public payroll in Italy but just a lot more expensive.

Somewhere that used to have their own Mr. Thomases, people have recently been talking of reinventing the school caretaker. But this cannot happen, because all those friends and relatives of the fly-by-night fake companies will by now have been locked in as rent-seekers and will consequently fight to the death for their gravy.

Posted on April 30, 2009 at 12:16 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, The Age Of Enron-cence

Leave a Reply