06 November 2006
The North London Line, Mancur Olson and why we’re all doomed
Patrick Crozier

Tim Hall (see comment) is all depressed about how long it takes to get anything done in this country.  He is talking about the gap between the closure of part of the North London Line and the opening of its replacement.  I’d like to say it’s all to do with the state.  And, of course, it is.  It’s just not quite as simple as all that.  As Michael Jennings is fond of pointing out, they have none of this difficulty in Hong Kong or Singapore.  This is a peculiarly British phenomenon.

I once spoke to a bloke who was involved in some London project, it may even have been this one.  His point was that there were so many agencies involved: national government, local government, Network Rail, the TOCs etc that it was almost impossible to get them all to agree.  And so you got nowhere.

Now, part of the reason is the vertical fragmentation of the railway, another reason to oppose it, but it is only part of the reason.  The other part - the plethora of agencies - puts me in mind of the work of American economist, Mancur Olson.  His theory - although you’d be pushed to deduce this from his Wikipedia entry - is that over time all states acquire ever more rules and regulations (and presumably agencies to enforce them) until it become more or less impossible to do anything and they collapse.

We’re doomed.

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