Discrimination is Necessary

In a radio interview this morning it was alleged that Britain has forgotten how to develop strategic planning in defence and security. The interviewee told us that the Civil Service College has reduced training in strategic thinking from a six-month course to a one-day module. The allegation has the ring of truth, and not simply in defence and security.

It appears to me that British thinking is plagued by short-termism, with policy initiatives being entirely reactive to latest events. There is little sign that anyone is thinking of where the country should be in the longer run: twenty or thirty years’ time. Why is this? A clue lies in the present obsession with the obscure notion of ‘fairness’. It seems that every initiative becomes swamped in debate on whether it is fair to this or that group. In these debates the word ‘discrimination’ is commonly used in its newly pejorative sense.

Well, long term strategic thinking demands discrimination. If the country continues on its reactive, egalitarian course the future will be determined by the loudest voices, rather than by a vision of where and what we wish to be. Britain must learn afresh to discriminate in numerous fields. In education it is important that children from poorer homes have access to higher education, but it is arguably more important to ensure that graduates can find gainful employment without having to emigrate. Such a future is not assured if we treat all degree courses as equally worthy.

It is economic madness to pretend that a degree in media studies or visual arts is as important to the nation as one in material science or engineering. People with the latter qualifications can ensure that Britain competes in tomorrow’s industrial world. They are the people who can ensure that others are able to indulge in the arts. Britain needs a diverse manufacturing base if it is to remain a developed economy, and it needs politicians who are prepared to discriminate in their policies to bring such a future about. Nigel Lawson was clearly wrong to discount the importance of manufacturing.

Certain degree courses should be financed entirely by government, and certain industries should receive discriminatory preferences to ensure that those young people with the preferred qualifications do not have to go abroad to find work. The alternative is to have a poorer future for Britain as a whole.

Author: tomkilcourse

A sceptical Mancunian who dislikes pomposity and rudeness.

9 thoughts on “Discrimination is Necessary”

  1. You are of course quite right but don’t expect many of the general public to see it your way!

    Has it occurred to you that we lost the plot just about the time universal suffrage came in?
    When there were still property owning qualifications to vote we had far more sense and long termism applied.

    Nuff said!

  2. Christina – Universal suffrage was the beginning of the end, IMHO.

    Really, really big yellow smiley thing.


  3. Tom, what a philistine you are! The Arts are not an indulgence. They are the ‘quality’ that defines the ‘quantity’ studied by your favourites, the material scientists and engineers – who incidentally are not trained to think strategically at all.

  4. A timely post, Tom, or did you see this first?

    Students taking arts and humanities degrees could be worse off than those who leave school or college at 18, according to research.


    Note that they have mentioned, by name, ‘…fine art, music, drama, history, philosophy… without being completely un-PC and pointing out that sociology and anything with ‘studies’ in the title of the course are about as much use in real life as ashtrays on motorbikes.

  5. bravo, thanks for the laugh of the day!

    janus it would be a sad day for the general public if structural engineers could not think strategically, what bullshit you promulgate!

  6. Tina, my job sometimes includes advising on recruitment. If, when toiling through piles of CVs, I come across any that list ‘….studies’ as a qualification, they go straight to file 13.

  7. christinaosborne :

    bravo, thanks for the laugh of the day!

    janus it would be a sad day for the general public if structural engineers could not think strategically, what bullshit you promulgate!

    The said mechanics do what they are told. Vision and strategy are in the hands of people with more nous. Everybody knows that, except those with mecahnical minds.

  8. I haven’t commented on the strategic thinking of engineers, Janus. My argument is that politicians and there placemen need to think strategically, and to discriminate in their policies accordingly. If we do not produce the human capital that can compete in the world with the best, Britain will continue to sink. I am suggesting that Britain should study the post-war economic history of Japan, and adopt that country’s ideas.

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