One of the small joys of my job, and by joys I mean “things that keep me from being driven insane by political idiocy” is the press releases that come to me via the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I enjoy the self-satisfied prose, the indignant focus on trivia, the specialized language of partisan drivel and the fact unlike mine, their computers apparently don’t have elementary grammar and spell checking capabilities.
Since I don’t want anyone driven mad let me share a recent choice morsel with you. On March 31 I got a release from the Canada Revenue Agency and the Minister of National Revenue with the headline “The Canada Revenue Agency succeeds in reducing the Paperwork Burden for Businesses”. Already it’s revealing, not only because they’re congratulating themselves for something that in the outside world you’d wait for someone else to congratulate you on. It’s also revealing because the odds are very strong that they did something they calculated would reduce paperwork and then after doing it used exactly the same methodology to calculate that it had done exactly what they predicted.
Next, typically, some flack put into the minister’s mouth the sonorous phrase “Canadian businesses are a vital part of local, provincial and national economies” which I guess is meant to sound pro-business but actually comes across as at once frightfully trivial and remarkably meaningless. Without businesses, what sort of economies would we have?
Finally this miniature masterpiece of mediocrity said “the CRA has identified over 8,000 obsolete or non-essential information obligations imposed on business. The elimination of these obligations, when implemented, will reduce the paperwork burden on business by 24.2 percent.” I really savour that extra decimal place.
Not “about a quarter” or even “24 percent” but “24.2 percent”. Wow. Such precision. Such attention to detail. We’re lucky to have that kind of government. It’s a vital part of local, provincial and national rhetorical overload.
Or not, since obviously they haven’t measured exactly how burdensome various regulations are; they don’t even know how time-consuming they are, let alone what other vexations they impose in what amounts. How could they? They can’t sit in every small businessperson’s office or kitchen and monitor their blood pressure as they fill out forms. It’s possible that the CRA simply thinks they’re getting rid of exactly 24.2 per cent of all government regulations although if that’s the claim I’d bet 24.2 dollars they mismeasured badly. But what really stands out is that governments genuinely believe not only that scientific management is the answer to public policy problems, but that they’re currently engaged in it.
Infuriating, to be sure. But piquant. Enjoy the complex, subtle horror of it. Become a connoisseur of such stuff to avoid being sent round the bend by it. Roll it around on your tongue. But don’t swallow it.
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