17 April 2021

More than sufficient incompetence

 Approximately a thousand years ago, the Globe and Mail articles on Doug Ford's alleged drug dealing produced a "that's not much of a surprise" response.  Today I find myself feeling excessively slow, because those articles reached a conclusion that if Doug had had something to do with selling hash, it sure looked like he'd been at least a couple levels up as a distributor, rather than your local weed man.  (It also carefully didn't say anything much about whether this was a business Doug had ever actually left.)

Today, it's hard to avoid a notion that whether or not Doug left that business is the wrong sort of question; is there someone to whom Doug retains obligations from those days?  (I am embarrassed by how long it took me to think of this question.) Hard to think there wouldn't be; Doug got somewhere, but it wasn't the top.  And real organized crime is hardly distinguishable from some regular lines of business until you get into precise details of title and so on.  They're getting a cut.  Why they're getting a cut isn't something you expect to know. Completely plausible that Doug straight up owed somebody getting rid of paid sick leave and it's not on the table out of political conviction -- Doug's only reliable conviction is that people who don't do what he says are bad people -- but because Doug's boss says it's not allowed.

That has some long-term implications for Ontario politics.

The present implications are that the PC government is not merely incapable of taking effective public health measures, is not merely incapable of learning, is not merely collectively innumerate, and is not merely focused on trying to wring partisan advantage from a pandemic; it is not even that the definition of profit is completely disjoint from how many people get killed due to the regular function of your business.  It's that policy is being set on the instructions of the premier's boss, without any pretense of civil government, the consent of the governed, or that the government is responsible to the electorate.

It's a pure example of the oligarchical view that the function of government is to maintain a pool of helpless labour, ideally free labour, which is required to do precisely what it is told regardless of circumstances.  It's the attitude of a slaveholder who has outsourced labour management to the government, and who has very specific expectations about how nothing ever increases their costs because that would decrease their profits, and that horror of decreased profits clearly contravenes the divine mandate for the natural order.

Time to enact some structural change.


James said...

I am dubious, if only because it would be easy to craft a sick days policy which spared any particular interests while still being reasonably effective from a public health perspective: cover only essential workers (to be defined by the government) with costs to be underwritten by the government and only for a brief defined time of the pandemic; with additional curlicues to be added if necessary.

My own guess is that this is just one of Ford's shibboleths and that he can't conceptualize any way in which requiring paid sick leave is an actual public good; and he is also really not a politician (in that his background does not encourage him to seek compromise).

The Keystone Kops level comedy of the past couple of days (if they decided to close playgrounds and empower police for political reasons you would think they'd run a few focus groups to check on the probable political fallout) bears sufficient witness to their incompetence.

In my experience "never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to incompetence" is almost the Occam's razor of public discourse (related to the equally generally applicable adage "Shoot low, Sheriff, they're riding Shetland ponies").

(Incompetence is actually more depressing, because hidden lords and masters can also want useful things. Incompetence of the level we're seeing is like a Tar Baby: always with them and impossible to dislodge.)

Graydon said...

Getting rid of paid sick leave was an unpopular election promise, implemented early. And he has to be hearing from pollsters if no one else that his current policy is deeply unpopular.

So, yes, hopelessly inept; yes, not a politician, and quite probably the sort of boss who assumes all sick leave is fake and that paying for any moment in time when someone isn't actively working is some kind of injustice. (Rather like the semi-apocryphal duchess who felt that the poor exist to work and should not have holidays.)

And, yes, never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence. It's still really difficult to suppose that this is purely incompetence, because mammonites do have a common set of beliefs and this accords with those beliefs and the government is sticking to the policy despite high and rising political costs, where on things like school closures there's been room for reversals. Sick leave is somehow immutable policy, and it's starting to convince people they're looking at malice, rather than incompetence.

Put another way; nothing consistent is accidental. Incompetence is rarely consistent, and this policy that under no circumstances will there be sick leave has been extremely consistent so far.

Ford hasn't been especially consistent about much else, either. So it stands out.

arborman said...

If he is competent it is in knowing his own interests. Every politician who has been in power for the duration of the pandemic who has the slightest notion of history must know that once we come out the other side we will culturally and politically be looking to turn a page.

The canniest of them bought some time by holding an election in the fall (see: Horgan, BC). The cynical political hope is that they will be around long enough after the pandemic that the next election will be about anything but the pandemic. Trudeau also tried to pull this off in the Fall, and is extremely likely to drop the writ any time in the next 6 weeks - barring some massive fallout from today's budget.

The least canny (Ford, Kenney etc) suffer from the delusion that they are on the right side of history. Kenney is still trying to fight the culture war of 2 years ago and imagining that huffing and puffing at hippies will help people forget that oil is dying. Ford is still trying to appease his bases -rich people, morons and people who spend hours commuting and have no time for complex political thinking and are thus susceptible to concentrated bullshit.

If Ford is at all canny he will suspect that he is finished as soon as the pandemic is over. The Brits ejected Churchill after he navigated a much more complex and hazardous situation, the likes of Ford have no chance. He may well be looking for a C-Suite job or a collection of sinecures. That won't happen if he forces them to pay sick people.