In contemporary Britain - and most of modern Europe - officials direct economic
activity through a wide variety of policy boards, planning committees, public
enquiries, business inspectorates, standards enforcers, production quotas,
environmental lobbies and regulators in all shapes and sizes, from "Ofstyle"
quangos for rail, water, electricity, gas etc, through to the Financial Services
Authority and down to health and safety officers and even parking wardens. The
invention of silly jobs for dull, self-important people enforcing labyrinthine
regulations which only they understand or care about is now a defining European
characteristic. Every one of them is backed up with statutory powers granted - as
ever - in the name of the people. It is an extra-ordinary parallel of the
inspection culture of the pre-1989 communist bloc, and in the same way renders a
large slice of the population completely unproductive. Only 20 years ago
such an inspection oriented culture would have made us all scream with laughter,
but that was before it became our own.