Monday, 7 September 2015

The District Council and housing policy: "the goal of removing as many questions as possible from the realm of public political debate... to that of administration by properly qualified authorities."

A particularly pertinent piece appears on the East Devon Watch blog today, which raises fundamental questions about how we should be determining policy:


7th September 2015

A rather extraordinary inclusion in the papers for tomorrow’s Development Management Committee has piqued the Owl’s interest:

Ed Freeman (Head of Planning) has written an extraordinary attack against previous (unnamed) councillors reproduced verbatim here:

“Where in the past some Members have sought to drive down housing numbers to protect the environment and satisfy the expressed desires of residents to see only limited growth and development this has arguably been a short sighted and perhaps self defeating approach. In terms of following through on the Government’s objectives, we are required to have an objectively assessed housing need which meets the identified needs of the district and then to purposively meet that need.”

Surely it is inappropriate for a senior officer to attack councillors in public for wanting “to protect the environment” and for standing in the way of “Government objectives”? And if EDDC exists ONLY to follow government objectives, what is the point of its existence, one might ask? And that of its officers, whose job is supposed to be to provide neutral and objective support, whatever party might be in power in the district at the time.

It’s particularly rich when it could be said that it is only thanks to EDDC’s self-confessed persistent failure to build enough houses over the past decade, and its inept performance when it comes to the Local Plan, that some councillors are trying to protect the countryside that EDDC itself has put at risk.

Owl wonders if councillors feel it worth a slapped wrist – an officer of the Council should not be criticising councillors for doing their job and who, if not named, can surely be identified .


Senior EDDC officer roundly criticises un-named councillors in public papers | East Devon Watch

The aim, then, is to remove politics from the politicians. Or, rather, the aim is to render politics superfluous:

Taylorism, Progressivism, and Rule by Experts

KEVIN A. CARSON Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The implications, as James Scott put it in 'Seeing Like a State', were quite authoritarian. 

Only a select class of technocrats with “the scientific knowledge to discern and create this superior social order” were qualified to make decisions. In all aspects of life, policy was to be a matter of expertise, with the goal of removing as many questions as possible from the realm of public political debate to that of administration by properly qualified authorities. Politics, Scott writes, “can only frustrate the social solutions devised with scientific tools adequate to their analysis.” 

As a New Republic editorial put it, “the business of politics has become too complex to be left to the pretentious misunderstandings of the benevolent amateur.”

Taylorism, Progressivism, and Rule by Experts | Foundation for Economic Education
Center for a Stateless Society » Taylorism, Progressivism, and Rule by Experts

There are alternatives, however: 

Such as 'managed democracy':
Futures Forum: Managed democracy: "The deliberate undermining of people's perception of the world, by creating confusion and contradiction ... undermining any opposition to existing power structures ... which leaves us feeling helpless and depressed and to which the only response is: 'Oh dear'."

... 'authoritarian high modernism':
Futures Forum: Skypark and “authoritarian high modernism”

... quiet little deals behind the scenes:
Futures Forum: Housing in East Devon: "I don’t see it as the floodgates opening, but I do see a stampede coming.”

... faux 'giving power back to the people':
Futures Forum: Volunteers in the community: 'doing jobs for free' or 'empowering communities to take local action'?

... and other power games:
Futures Forum: On psychopaths, politicians and doing business

Or, perhaps the idea of 'the commons' might help instead:
Futures Forum: Transition to the knowledge commons
Futures Forum: The triumph of the commons

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