The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a 2007 BBC documentary series by English filmmaker Adam Curtis. (See his blog here)
Part 1: F*k You Buddy
Part 2: The Lonely Robot
Part 3: “We Will Force You To Be Free”
An excerpt from Part 1:
[…] “In 1979 Mrs. Thatcher has come to power in Britain. What she promised to create is a society based on the dream of individual freedom. People would be liberated from the arrogant elites and the State bureaucrats (…)*. But Mrs. Thatcher new she would have to find a new way of managing and controlling (…) in a complex society in order to avoid chaos. And to do this, just like the psychiatrists in America, she would turn to systems based on the objective power of numbers. But underlying the new mathematical models would yet again be the very dark and suspicious vision of human beings that the cold war strategists had assumed. This vision will now penetrate to the very heart of the British state.
Thatcher government began in the early ages by selling off many of the state owned interests. But it soon became clear that in the modern world there were large areas of the State which would have to remain under government control. Mrs. Thatcher was determined to free them too from the old forms of management.
To do this she would bring in a system no longer run by ideas of public duty, instead public servants would be encouraged by incentives to follow their self-interests.
It was all in keeping with the idea of the inventors of Public Choice: James Buchanan.
He believed that those politicians and bureaucrats who preached the idea of public duty that were the most dangerous, what he called the zealots. They have to be got rid of them.
Buchanan: […] If our success depends on the goodness of politicians and bureaucrats, then we are in real problem.
It was a dark and pessimistic vision of human motivation, but it was about to become the bases for a new system for managing the British state.
In 1988 Mrs. Thatcher announced the complete reform of the way the national health service was run. The fundamental (…) was to overthrow the power of the medical establishment and replace it with a new efficient system of management. To do this Mrs. Thacher turned to a man who had been one of the nuclear strategist of Rand Corporation at the height of the Cold War. (Alain Enthoven)
[…] Enthoven developed a technique he called system analysis. It was a technique of management that he believed could be applied to any type of human organization. Its aim was to get rid of all the emotional and subjective values that confused and corrupted the system, and replace them by rational, objective methods, mathematically defined targets and incentives.
Enthoven had first tried to apply this system back in the 1960’s when he was still in the military. The secretary of defense Robert McNamara asked him to help transform the way Pentagon was run. Enthoven began to get rid of the idea that Patriotism should be the guiding force of America’s defense and replacing it with a rational system based on numbers.
What replaced patriotism and notions of duty, were mathematically measurable outcomes.
But McNamara’s experiments had ended in disaster when he had tried to run the Vietnam war with rational mathematical way through performance targets and incentive. The most infamous example has been the body count. It has been designed as a rational measure of whether America was winning the war, but in fact troupes simply made it up, even shot civilians to perform (…)* targets. […]