Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is the 'Ideas Campaign' a left wing plot?

I hate to be openly suspicious and cynical but there's something going on here.

Like David McWilliams the people at 'The Ideas Campaign' are collecting ideas on how we are supposed to get out of this economic quagmire. This sounds like a great idea but there's some small print:

Each working day, we will be publishing new ideas to this website. We will only be publishing a small sample of what we receive. But we’re being very, very careful. If we see evidence of ideas that have confidential, sensitive information we will not publish them. Also, we are editing some of the contributions for sense, length and balance.

'A small sample of what we receive' - Editorial control is not a bad thing bug who are the editors? Nowhere on the site does it make clear who's in charge and who's deciding which 'small sample' of ideas is used.

'Editing for .. balance' - What constitutes 'unbalanced'? And here's where it starts to get odd....

You can't see all the ideas that have been submitted, So we've no idea what editorial filter is in use. So far they have released batch 1, 2 and 3 of people's ideas. And when you read them you start to wonder what's going on. While they cover a wide array of activities things which involve cutting government expenditure barely get a mention.

Some of the ideas so far are good, but may already have been tried to some extent:

Generic drugs are much cheaper than branded drugs and could save millions in government finances. Why not push for these obvious savings?

This one is long overdue but won't happen unless the government force An Post to relinquish its effective monopoly on knowing where everyone lives:

We need to immediately introduce a post code system. The only reason we don’t have one despite numerous studies and reports is to preserve the monopoly of An Post. A postal code will encourage competition in the postal and parcel delivery system. A post code system will be of major benefit to companies wishing to sell online, but also to Local Authorities, Government Departments and the emergency services.

Some are idiotic. We're going to save the economy by encouraging illegal immigration:

Tourism - We need to get more people into the country. And here’s how. Our planes are flying out to such places as America, Dubai, Russia etc. and some are coming back with 20-25% empty seats. So what we need to do is, in conjunction with our embassies around the world, give these seats away free of charge.

Those who get the seats will be responsible for their return trip home. Here is how the economy wins: people who avail of the free seats to Ireland have to stay somewhere (hotels), they have to eat (restaurants), they will socialise (pubs) and they will buy gifts (retail).

This is a simple measure; it only needs the willpower. These seats are empty - let’s fill them

This one is a 'Bit Irish' but might actually work:

Move St. Patrick’s Day to mid-May or late-September and stretch out the tourism season (and get it out of Lent!)

And almost none suggest the government should spend less money. The nearest I found was this:

Drop the minimum wage to make employment more affordable and to bring rates in line with mimimum wage across the border and cut out penalty rates for restaurants & entertainment industry at weekends and evenings.

The vast majority of posts are the kind of policy proposals you'd get from a Young Labour convention.

Not one single post advocates cutting public sector jobs. What's going on here? Who are these people? Well, the domain is owned and operated by an eCommerce consultancy called AMAS. The site itself is the brainchild of Aileen O'Toole, one of AMAS's directors. According to the Irish Time's piece announcing the project:

All ideas will be moderated by campaign staff before they go online, she said, to ensure only legitimate ideas were made public. “If this project is to have credibility, we can’t let ideas out there unless they have legs, unless they are achievable,” she said.

I hate to point this out but apart from a complete lack of ideas on how to cut expenditure the ideas that survived the moderation process include 'acheivable' goals like these one:

My idea is that the Government should ban the use of automated telephone answering services in all areas of the Public Service i.e. Departments, Semi-State bodies, Local Authorities and Government Agencies of every description.


The government should give a grant of €250 for a course of driving lessons to anyone buying a car.

With more cars on the road there will be more tax revenue for the government. Making drivers safer will also reduce road accidents and save the country money.

Given that we don't know what the editorial criteria are (or for that matter who the editors are) shouldn't we be cautious in listening to what they say, especially as the ideas that survive the moderation process don't seem to involve cutting the public sector?

Could it be that a group of people are trying to shift the focus to anywhere but cutting the public sector?

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