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Tripping over our shiny shoelaces


Three of the aglet attachment department staff had small children, so the manager decided to open a daycare centre for them

Bloomberg photo by Shiho Fukada

SOMEONE once said that any bureaucracy, if left to itself, will grow so big that it eventually needs no input from outside at all. Let’s look at a mythical example. The Shiny Shoelace Company employs 10 workers who weave laces and attach the little aglets to the ends. (Did you know they were called aglets?)

The manager heard that happy workers were productive workers, so he opened a staff canteen that provided lunch and tea for the staff. Of course, he employed a cook, a purchasing officer and a scullery operative to run the canteen.

Three of the aglet attachment department staff had small children, so the manager decided to open a daycare centre for them.

This required a full-time nurse and a nappy operative. He now needed additional office staff to manage the tax affairs of his large staff, and it seemed only fair to provide staff transport as most of his workers lived far from the factory, so he bought a small bus and employed a driver and mechanic.

Eventually the dictates of fashion decided shoelaces were no longer needed as new styles of footwear used Velcro. Shoelace production ceased but nobody noticed because the 14743 staff members now on the payroll were too busy keeping the company going and keeping track of each other.

I was interested to read, just the other day, that the SA Navy had welcomed 52 new graduates from the naval training establishment in Gordon’s Bay.

I also read in a Sunday newspaper a couple of weeks ago that our navy had no seaworthy ships. All of them were broken and there were no people trained to fix them.

(This may have been fake news.One can never tell these days. But let’s assume there was some truth there.) Now we would appear to have a growing number of trained sailors to operate a shrinking number of seaworthy vessels.

Rather like the Shiny Shoelace Company, we no longer actually need to produce anything – or in this case, to go to sea.

We can have catering divisions, medical staff, naval bandsmen, drivers, radio operators, cartographers, procurement officers, computer operators, accountants and record keepers. All of them have official ranks, so they know exactly who has to salute whom.

And they know exactly how much pay each rank must receive. The taxpayers will, of course, settle the bill. It no longer seems important to have actual ships patrolling our coastline

Heck no. We’re far too busy saluting each other to bother with little details like that. We’re planning to open a naval shoelace division to keep our officers’ footwear looking smart.

Last Laugh

A lady went to an art dealer and said she was looking for a still life painting to hang in her dining room.

She liked one that depicted a crisp loaf of bread and a plate of freshly sliced pink ham.

“How much is that one,” she asked. “It’s R3000, madam.”

“What? I saw one in another gallery for only R2000.”

“It must have been of inferior quality, madam.”

“Not at all. There was far more ham on the plate than this.”