Sunday, 19 July 2009

What Are Think Tanks For?

You could call the front bar of most pubs in Britain 'Think Tanks'. There, many people blessed with the wondrous gift of 'Common Sense' have the 'calling' and slave tirelessly, over many hours, unpaid, in the illusive quest to solve the entire world of their problems. But no one ever listens.

In fact, in the 'Think Tank' I have attended on occasions, we even predicted the over-heating of the housing markets in the Western world as being the point at which economies would collapse. We even predicted that the rise of Hedge Funds and fat City bonuses would cause economic meltdown. But as the two observations were made in different 'sittings' and by largely different members, nobody linked the two things together.

But that's how 'Think Tanks' work. It is basically people with too much time on their hands sitting in the room with some kind of 'stimulus'. In our case it was alcohol and most other Think Tanks it is the money paid by the body who wants the answers and usually the initial question goes something along the lines of 'The NHS is getting overloaded, so how much money can we get out of it?'.

You think I'm kidding? Where did you think the Congestion Charge came from or Road Safety Speed Cameras or catching terrorists came from? All the answers involved ways of making more money, the latter by using the cameras installed to supposedly catch terrorists to be used to catch people putting the wrong things in bins and old ladies illegally parking, hence making more money. And they must be all done at separate meetings as none of the answers ever reference the other and always assume we have bottomless pits of money to hand back to Government or in consultant-speak their thinking is 'unjoined up'.

So today's gem is that a new Think Tank has come up with a way to solve over-crowding at GP surgeries. It must have take all of 30 seconds this one and the minutes of the meeting show that the chairman did not even finish reading out the question when some professor from the University of Pratts Bottom piped up, 'Charge the bastards £20 a visit.' Brilliant - all those in favour? 'Aye'. Passed unanimously. Next question vexed them a bit but took 45 minutes and they decided to end world poverty by charging all inhabitants of Africa £35 for the use of condoms.

Ryan Air seem to be operating much the same way by the looks of some of the ideas they have come up with but that's another story.

It strikes me that politicians clearly can only think for themselves when it comes to expenses and getting second jobs. All other times they simply toss the offending question into a Think Tank and out pops the answer which always goes along the lines of 'The answer to Britain's problem referenced XYZ (no need to fill the question in) is to charge ABC (refer to demographic chart book) £Delta (refer to charging rate booklet).'

So do we get value for our £60,000 a year plus multiple expensed MPs? Not really as when you add up all the consulting, research and Think Tank fees they pay out a year, we see that using their outsourced brain power actually costs us a great deal more. But one thing we can be sure of is that the more we pay for them, we end up paying a great deal more in our taxes.

Get with the programme, everyone. Register your pub's front bar as a 'Think Tank', invent a suitable studious name and make some money while you drink. I guarantee you'll make more sense than the ones in existence today.

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