"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." - The Third Man
For a while now, I've had a post in my 'drafts' folder that I'm unusually nervous about. Not because it's got much in it that I wouldn't be prepared to defend, but because it is an argument whose time is yet to come.
I promised a 'defence of boss politics' a while ago.
But my experience on the wireless the other day reinforced something that has bothered me for a long time. If you say - in public - that "this country isn't particularly corrupt", you will be greeted by a gale of incredulous laughter.
Or at least you will from the chattering classes. From the watching Newsnight classes. From the audience for 'Have I Got News For You' or the people who still buy newspapers for anything other than the TV listings and the racing page.
Yet, if you look at the Transparency International Corruption Index, you will see that the only places that are perceived to be more corrupt than the UK are places where there are actual recorded clinical cases of people dying of boredom.
And, as the survey is based on perception, if you were to cross-reference this with any index that someone could draft showing how negative, dishonest and cynical journalists are in particular countries, I expect that it would be reasonable to conclude that this table actually exagerates the UK's corruption.
Yet, if you were prone to conspiracy theories, you could, particularly in a moment of feeble-mindedness, be convinced that a steady programme of brainwashing has happened in this country. By a drip-drip process, the public have been convinced that we are politically corrupt.
But why would anyone do this? Why would any bastard child of P2, Opus Dei and ZOG go to the trouble of deluding an entire (chattering) population in this way?
Well, a conspiracy-buff could surely suggest that the brainwashing has been done by a vile alliance of civil servants and management consultants? Because, as long as we are all watching little Nick Robinson with his silly glasses and childish narratives, we are ignoring the log in the lavatory.
This is, by the way, not just a beef with the mainstream meeja. It's also a challenge to comrades on the blogosphere - to Recess Monkey, Guido, Tim, Iain, and sites like British Spin to name but a tiny percentage of blogs that are ignoring the wood because of their focus on the trees.
They are missing the unavoidable fact that, at every level, we are subjects of a deeply incompetent bureaucracy that is getting worse by the day. That any of us that do still beleive in progressive taxation and a welfare safety net have had our fox well and truly shot, buggered and wee-weed on by the way that huge increases in public spending since 1997 have done little to diminish poverty or improve public services.
And if you don't beleive me, have a look at what Bryan Appleyard has found ...*drumroll*... that when you pay someone to tell you the time, they get to keep your watch.
The £70 billion figure quoted here itself sounds like a bit of demagogic simplification to me. But, even if the real figure is a fraction of that, it blows all of the arsewipery about 'cash for peerages' / Cowboy Suits out of the water. For ever. If there is a real scandal in this country, it is that the incompetent fuckwits in Whitehall are handing over public goldmines to incompetent fuckwits in management consultancies, under a largely silent blanket.
Note, by the way, that Appleyard's article (primarily about the way that the arse-covering from senior civil servants' conspires with territorial ambitions of useless consultants) is entitled 'Blair's Barmy Army.' He can probably blame the sub-editors for this.
Sub-editors are, of course, a weather-vane on matters such as this. And this begs the question: Is this obsession now so endemic in the media that they are no longer capable of observing any phenomenon without making it primarily a Westminster issue?
Either way, the perception that we are corrupt is feathering a lot of pretty worthless nests. And because I beleive in cock-ups and not conspiracies, I'll not be suggesting it to Dan Brown as a plot-line.
But surely there must be a case to made that the obsession with graft in public life is cruelly undermining any pertinent discussions about how the country should be run? Is the world ready for a 'Defence of Boss Politics'?
(Hat tip for Appleyard's article and sundry encouragement to S&M)