Tuesday, 11 November 2014

How Governments Waste Your Time


Here's a letter from the 1940s when the Royal Mail was a government department and they could incorporate government policy into postmarks. This one reads "Staggered Holidays for Comfort". Don't all go on holiday at the same time, folks - it only leads to crowded roads and trains. I've never seen this postmark before and I don't expect to see it again.

The idea it incorporates was short-lived. If British governments had their way, we would all take our holidays at the same time. There are two main instruments for enforcing this policy. 

First, nowadays and with some vigour, parents are taken to court and fined if they take their children out of schools in term time even if it is for the Holiday of a Lifetime. Since all schools have more or less the same Term Times - no obvious reason why they have to but they do - that means that there is more or less guaranteed discomfort at airports and on the roads at holiday times. And it ensures high prices at hotels and for flights since everyone wants them at the same time. Doh!

Second, there is the rather weaker instrument of public holidays - the dates on which government shuts down its own business and advises other businesses to do likewise. It has less and less success in enforcing this policy. Nowadays, the Town Hall closes but Tesco stays open. So public holidays nowadays are more or less public sector holidays. Any excuse, really.

A while back, 25 September 2013,  I published on this site an essay, "Private Time Management, Public Time Mismanagement" - one of my more successful Posts with 333 visits as of today. It's about the ways in which governments waste our time by mismanaging what I call Public Time - the organisation of the calendar, the setting of the clocks, and so on.

Governments don't think of Time as a finite and precious resource. It's like other people's money. It's there to be squandered. Go to the original essay if you've time for the full argument

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