How to fix public institutions

posted in: How to fix the world | 0

It is an obvious truism that public institutions have a tendency to bloat and meddling-creep: to always seek to increase their powers and control, never backing down voluntarily.

Furthermore, whether on purpose or by accident, they shut themselves in self-serving ideological bubbles that discount all challenge as ignorance or evil intent.


It is with this reality in mind that I present this brave idea:

Institutions need to be headed by powerful outsiders – contrarian bosses untouched by, and ideally in reasoned opposition to the little circlewanks and private mythologies, in order to counterbalance institutional inertia.

This is not necessarily an anti-state argument. A lot of what various ministries and public agencies are doing is clearly desirable, but it is painfully obvious that a lot is also bullshit serving merely the self-interest of the institutions (and their controllers), and at any rate, stuff virtually nobody outside the establishment wants, voted for or consented to. Certainly not a democratic majority.

Because these things are so often matters of underlying bureaucratic culture, and impervious to normal democratic change, there is no good feedback mechanism in society to keep those tendencies in check.

We need ministers radically opposed to half the things their ministries are doing.

Not as sabotage, but as a balance.

Put a libertarian in charge of justice and policing.

A privacy enthusiast with an NSA-China-and-Russia proof Linux home network in charge of security and intelligence.

A college dropout who started a billion-dollar unicorn in charge of education.

A pro-nuclear climate sceptic in charge of environment.

A disgruntled middle-class taxpayer in charge of culture.

Jeremy Clarkson in charge of transportation.

You get the idea.


Public institutions and ministries are gripped by not even ideologies, but outright mythologies that by happy accident usually seem to justify things that match the prejudices of, and are privately beneficial to, the employees, directors and private sector clients of these institutions.

We now have institutions nominally dedicated to things they practically oppose:

Anti-transportation transportation departments that serve only the interests of the makers of traffic signs, speed bumps, roundabouts and speed cameras.

Anti-business business departments, concerned chiefly with favoritism, pay-to-play regulation and oligopoly creation and protection of cartels.

Anti-education education departments that care more about enforcing an ideological orthodoxy and “protecting students” from alien ideas (i.e. protect teachers’ monopoly on pupils’ minds from competing worldviews) than opening minds and teaching reasoning skills and sharing knowledge.

Again, you get the idea.

My system is the opposite – apparently opposed to the institutions, but really only opposed to the self-serving, purpose-defeating mythologies epidemic among their employees.

What I’m proposing is in fact a return to true purpose – restoring an instrumental relationship between goal and organization, rather than the self-serving rent extraction and organizational self-aggrandizement that uses its original purpose merely as an excuse to, frequently, push for diametrically opposite goals.

The idea is that even if the outsider, contrarian chiefs have their own leanings and are not necessarily objective paragons of truth (albeit definitely closer to it than the institutional consensus), they’ll be able to successfully challenge the dominant prejudices within their derpartments and drag them closer to rational, constructive positions.

Stemming leviathan.

As a pilot project, we can put me in charge of the United Nations.

Help fund my rise to power. I promise to be a good world president.