The wrong question

Published on July 14, 2017

It seems to me that the BBC, or maybe just the Today programme has decided that we need more police. At least that’s how I interpret the interview on Friday 23rd June with a senior police officer.

The interview focussed on the amount being paid to fund the service and whether or not it was going to declining further, after recent cuts. It was established that, for once, the politician’s claim that funds were not going down was at least partially correct: they’re not going down in nominal terms. But inflation will reduce the amount that can be spent in real terms. This isn’t the easiest task to accomplish but not unheard of either. At Gordon Durhams we used to keep overheads at the same level every year. We always managed to find an item of expense to cut that was as big as the bill for inflation. We even quit the trade association of which my Dad had been President elect because it didn’t provide any benefits.

My question is – why is this the place to focus valuable air time? Why is it so frequently assumed that the answer to every problem is more money? As I wrote in WealthBeing, some businesses react to failure by looking to try something else with more money: a new drinks brand reacted to another setback, its third, with a plan to launch a fourth. This business failed shortly thereafter because it hadn’t looked honestly at the causes of its last failure. It assumed that it was getting everything right except the drink’s formula, whereas its problems actually lay in marketing (no clear message and insufficient coverage) and production (too expensive).

If media were as unbiased as some (such as the BBC) claim to be then they would balance the view that money will solve everything with more insightful questions: e.g. “how are the police harnessing new technologies to combat terrorism ?”. Progress is not always achieved by spending more money doing the same things more frequently. Even World War Two, as I’m re-discovering in the excellent World at War documentaries, was won largely by technology – not just breaking the Enigma code but also things such as radar which enabled our aircraft to meet the Luftwaffe at the right time and in the right numbers in the Battle of Britain. The technologies that are being used now may be as secret as radar and the encryption machines were then. But at least we should acknowledge that new ways of doing things are at least as important as more people doing more of the same things.