Thursday, 6 October 2011

Explaining some Charlton catch-phrases


1. Things need to get worse before they can get better

2. People are not-even-trying

3. Humans are simple, dichotomous creatures

4. Repentance must come first

These refer mainly to social and political matters - and especially to plans and schemes for reform.


1. Things need to get worse before they can get better, because otherwise they already would be better.

This means that things can get better only via getting worse - and that is the reason why it has not already been done.

What stops people doing what needs to be done, is that improvement can come only in the long run while problems arrive immediately.

What needs to be done causes problems for sure whereas its benefits are more remote and conjectural.


2. It certainly will not happen when people are not even trying to make it happen.

Good things don't happen by accident.

They don't necessarily happen when people are trying to make them happen - but they certainly don't happen unless people are trying to make them happen.

If the mass of people are mostly trying to do one thing, it is unlikely that they will consistently achieve another, quite different, thing.

If you want to achieve something, then that is what you should aim to achieve.


3. Humans are simple, dichotomous creatures. This means that in practice, policies can only be simple, dichotomous.

This means that complex solutions are always wrong.

And effective solutions are always crude.

(And until there is a simple and crude solution, there cannot be an effective solution.)

Therefore, there are always significant disadvantages to any effective solution.

Therefore you need to decide what is most important. You may get this; but only at a cost.


4. Repentance must come first.

Politics and management is only serious when it begins with repentance: with a confession of what they did wrong and a resolve to avoid this fault in future.

Our society is only serious about the things it openly repents (which is why we are in so much trouble, i.e. because of the choice of things we repent).

When things are going down, nothing effective will be done about it until there is a clear repentance and repudiation of that which led to the decline.


In public policy, therefore, You cannot do good by stealth.

You must shout from the rooftops, and repeatedly, what was done wrong, that the wrong has been repented, what are the new priorities. Then shout the crude and simple solution, including the inevitable and expected costs and nature of opposition. And then do it.

The inevitable costs must be borne, the inevitable opposition must be overcome.

The process is not sophisticated nor nuanced - it is crude and conflictual - and it will be vilified by the intellectual elite.


To which I would add:

5. Inertia means that things get worse slower than you fear; but also that adverse trends are harder to reverse than you hope.