An award for Steven Kates is surely deserved for this wonderful suggestion for an historical benchmark!
I’ll bet you a hundred Gillards that this one goes viral in Australia…in fact I’ll raise you before you accept!
Measuring stupidity & waste
by Steven Kates
June 27, 2011
Introducing a new unit of account for government waste
What has often bothered me about politics is that those who cause the damage never maintain over time the odium of their stupidity. Occasionally something will stick, such as Neville Chamberlain at Munich, but generally the idiocies of one generation disappear into the next as just a barely remembered episode in history.
Here in Australia, for example, we often refer to the Ord River Scheme which cost an insane amount of money at the time, but does anyone any longer remember whose decision this was? Off into history they go, totally free of the shame that ought to attach to having made this decision.
But watching how the bizarre expenditures of the Building the Education Revolution program and the batts-in-ceilings stimulus and now with the near-on entirely wasteful NBN and beyond that how the carbon taxes will lay waste to our energy producing industries, I think it is time we ensured that at least some of those responsible have their decisions immortalised so that it is always recalled not just what was done but who did it.
I have been reflecting on the massive sums of money involved. Our stimulus program cost a fantastic $43 billion for example, oddly the same amount as the first estimate for the NBN. There will then be the enormous cost to the economy when we start closing coal fired power stations not to mention that accompanying tax. How much has gone down the drain over our failed boat people program?
And in thinking about these costs and the specific amounts of good money that will need to be thrown after all of the bad money already paid out, it occurred to me that we should create a unit of account for government waste. And in thinking about this, I recalled the old now defunct European numerical value that I would often come across reading about the great inflations of the past when the unit used was often referred to as the milliard. I think a milliard was around a thousand million of the local currency.
But it is not the amount in particular that is important but the lovely sound of the word. A milliard really does sound like a fantastic amount of money. I therefore think we should adopt something like that here to be the unit of account for the amount of money a government has wasted in some stupid scheme that blows tonnes of money and returns either far less than the amount of money absorbed as part of the production costs or as in some cases returns nothing whatsoever at all.
I therefore introduce the Gillard. One Gillard to be equal to one million Australian dollars.
Thus, the NBN, to take its first estimate, would be said to have cost this country 43,000Gillards. In using this numerical measure we would then simultaneously remind ourselves of how much money was involved while at the same time reminding ourselves who was ultimately responsible for the decision. And as soon as the unit of account is used, we are alerted to the fact that we are talking about the waste of taxpayer money since aGillard is by definition a unit of government waste.
We might then write the 43,000 Gillards as 43,000G. I suggest that the letter follow the number because we already have entities like the G7 and the G20. The danger here is that if we equated the thousands of Gillards spent on some program with the even larger amounts that are promoted through these meetings of governments at G7 and G20 we would lose touch with how large a cost government spending has become to we poor souls who must foot the bill. So 43,000 Gillards will need to be shortened to 43,000G.
Although, I must say that shortening it like this could turn the way we talk into just stating that something had cost 43,000 “G” which would lose our Prime Minister the honour of being the first political leader anywhere ever to have had a currency unit named after themselves. But it is a risk we will just have to take.