Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a lot of happy citizens. They had a kind, good King and everyone had a decent standard of living. The King taxed his people, but used the money to provide doctors and schools, and help for anyone who was unfortunate enough to be between jobs.

Unfortunately, despite the King's benevolence, there were two problems afflicting the kingdom. One was that a tiny minority of villains broke into other people's houses and stole their belongings. The other problem was that some citizens enjoyed driving fast on the King's highways.

So the king summoned his Chief Constable. "Last year there were five thousand reported burglaries," said the King. "I want you to recruit some Constables and deal with the problem!"

So the Chief Constable did so. A year later, he was summoned before the King, and explained what he had achieved.

"We caught and convicted a thousand burglars, Your Majesty," said the Chief Constable. "But it has been difficult. Most break-ins occur at night and there are no witnesses. Unless we catch someone red-handed, it's almost impossible to secure a conviction."

The King was unimpressed. "A twenty percent crime clear-up rate is nowhere near good enough! I pay you and your Constables to control crime, so go and improve your performance!"

So the following year, the Chief Constable invested in a lot of stopwatches, measuring tapes and fast horses. He instructed that all his Constables were to go out and ticket absolutely everyone they caught driving too fast.

So successful was this venture that at the end of the year, twenty thousand speeding drivers had been caught and fined. The Chief Constable happily reported to the King: "Your Majesty, we detected twenty thousand offences and secured twenty thousand convictions. The offenders were fined, which has swelled your treasury's coffers."

"But five thousand reported burglaries went undetected," noted the King.

"This is unfortunately true, Your Majesty," replied the Chief Constable, "But you can't deny that within a year and with no additional budget I have improved my clear-up rate from twenty percent to eighty percent."

There is a moral to this story. In the Real World, faced with similar pressures and budgetary constraints, what real Chief Constable would not be tempted to tread a similar path?

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