The pre-bureacratic era: "A time when nearly all politics was local – because it had to be. When it took days or weeks to get from one city to the next, when news travelled around the world not in seconds but in months. In those days, over a century ago, the idea of a central government bureaucracy devising and implementing policy that would affect people’s daily lives simply couldn’t work. The only things that the state would do were the things that only the state could do – like war and peace, foreign treaties, the money supply, weights and measures."
The bureaucratic era: "Enabled by better communications, and the possibility of information being collected and held by public officials, the bureaucratic era is about faith in centralised administration. Often motivated by noble impulses – to iron out inequalities and differences, to promote fairness and progress, to achieve value for money – central planners asserted a strong role for the top-down central state. Of course this took its most extreme and virulent form in the former Soviet Union, with its crazed five year plans for everything under the sun."
Making people less responsible: "You can only behave responsibly if you have responsibility for something, and that means having the power to make a choice about how you behave. So as the bureaucratic era marched ever onwards, with all those well-meaning public officials making all those top-down decisions for people, with all that information and knowledge they kept to themselves, they ended up taking power away from people – making them less responsible."
Wisdom of the crowds: "That is a wonderful thing for someone who comes, as I do, from the conservative political tradition, because we’ve always been motivated by a strong and instinctive scepticism about the capacity of bureaucratic systems to deliver progress. Instead, we’ve always preferred to place our trust in the ingenuity of human beings, collaborating in messy and unplanned interaction, to deliver the best outcomes. You might call it the wisdom of crowds."
True accountability: "In the
bureaucratic era, government tells you what you need, spends your
money, and if you don’t like it you can vote for a new government once
every few years. In the post-bureaucratic era, you shouldn’t just be
telling government what you want. You should be choosing what you want,
and acting to get what you want, so your money is spent on your
priorities, all the time."
Using info imaginitively: "There are some who oppose spending
on aid to poor countries, saying that it’s swallowed up in corruption
and doesn’t reach those who really need it. But corruption shouldn’t be
used as an excuse to stop aid. Instead we should use aid as a way to
stop corruption. In the post-bureaucratic era, we should tell the
public in the countries that receive our aid exactly how, when and
where the money’s being spent – so they can hold their local
politicians to account."
Bottom-up public policy: "In
Britain, there is a vast amount of information currently held or sold
by the public sector that, if made freely available, would unleash
social and commercial innovation. Neighbourhoods getting together to
commission local services. We have barely begun to see the
possibilities of a truly bottom-up approach to public policy, and
that’s because the political world has been slow to realise the scale
of the change that’s been happening."
CSR: "If we share a vision of a
post-bureaucratic world in which business has the freedom to succeed in
a low-tax, low-regulation economy, we politicians need your help. We
need your help in reducing the demand for government spending, and the
demand for regulation. That means your help in cutting the costs of
social and environmental failure. We can’t do it on our own. We need
your commitment, creativity and innovation to help tackle the
challenges that confront humanity."
Interesting stuff. We’ve made the full speech available for download here.