The Ship of State can be compared with a big cruise ship. At the helm is a captain, supported by some officers and a big crew. Their main task is to run the ship to the satisfaction of the passengers (and the company who owns it). The difference between a cruise ship and the Ship of State, however, is, that the Ship of State does not know where it is going, and that its captain and officers are amateurs rather than professionals. They do not need any qualification whatsoever; they only need to be members of the right union.
A new attraction and new captains
The Ship of State is already quite old, and over time it has had several repairs and updates. Since some time there had been demands that the ship would need another major overhaul, to make it more attractive again for the passengers. The captain asked the eligible adult passengers whether they would like a new attraction; 37% answered with ‘yes’ (35% said ‘no’, and 28% didn’t vote). Because the captain thought that this was not needed, he resigned.
The new captain was confronted with a difficult task. It had been decided that a new attraction was needed, but it was not clear what exactly this attraction should be. It turned out to be impossible to find a compromise which could be accepted by a majority of the officers and crew. And therefore this captain had to vacate the job as well.
The next captain was a well known con-man8. His idea of making the ship more attractive was the installation of a new water feature. This seemed to be an easy thing to do: just drill a hole in the bottom of the ship, and you will get a beautiful fountain. He was warned that this might be a dangerous solution, but he said: “Never mind. Go ahead with it.” And the water feature was installed. Initially many passengers enjoyed this new fountain. But some feared that they might get wet feet.
Starting to take on water
When more and more passengers started to realize that this water feature was not the best idea (because they actually started to get wet feet) a new captain was called to sort out the problem. And this captain had a brilliant idea: “If we increase the size of the hole, then the water has enough space to run back into the sea again.” Fortunately, the crew and many passengers realised quickly that this was a very dangerous idea, and not a solution at all. This captain was dismissed because of incompetence – something that usually doesn’t happen on the Ship of State.
Captain No. 5 was just able to avoid the worst damage. But because he still thinks that the water feature is a good idea, he does nothing to plug the hole and avert disaster. In the meantime, not surprisingly, the water level in the hull of the ship is still rising, and more and more passengers are getting wet feet… Only pumps can help to keep the water level in the ship at a “reasonable” height.
The captain(s) could stop the ship from sinking by plugging and sealing the hole. But they argue that this would be undemocratic and against the will of the passengers who voted “overwhelmingly” for a new attraction, not knowing what this attraction would be. Maybe the question was wrong. Maybe instead of asking whether the passengers wanted a new attraction, they should have been asked whether they wanted to get wet feet. And maybe, just maybe, the result of this referendum might have been different.
A sinking ship
The ship has now been operating with this new water feature for three years, mainly in rough waters. The fountain has proved not to be the big attraction for the majority of passengers. Better accommodation, for example, would have been a bigger attraction. The ship is loosing more and more ‘ground’ to the competition. Despite this hole in its bottom the ship is still swimming. But it will be more and more difficult to keep it on top of the water.
(An unnamed source has revealed that in his upcoming memoirs the former captain will explain why he decided to drill a hole in the ship. The answer is surprisingly simple: a lot of oil is extracted from the North Sea. If a ship with a hole in its rump swims in the North Sea, then it will automatically pick up oil at no extra cost. And this oil can then be sold with a huge profit. But, unfortunately, not everything that seems to be logic, is actually logic.)