by Brad Nelson
I’ve seen behind the scenes in government from time to time. Anyone who thinks that government “cares” for you and is looking out for your best interests ought to watch one of the best “reality” shows ever.
Yes Minister is a BBC TV show that ran from 1980 to 1984. The later incarnation was Yes, Prime Minister which ran from 1986-1988 chronically Jim Hacker’s eventual rise from cabinet minister to the top spot.
James Hacker is played by one of my favorite British actors, Paul Eddington, who many Americans may also remember from the splendid Good Neighbors (or The Good Life) BBC TV series. In that, he played the henpecked husband to great effect.
Minister Jim is the somewhat weak-willed and politically-naive British Minister for Administrative Affairs for the newly-elected government. His place in the cabinet is not at all secure and he fights to hold his place with the sometimes aid of his two civil service cohorts, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne) and his Principle Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds).
Hacker’s private secretary is somewhat loyal and sympathetic to him. But Sir Humphrey is a civil servant sociopath intent on ignoring the politicians, who he views as an annoyance, so that he can forward his own agenda which is accumulating as much power, salary, and titles as he can.
The laughter ensues as Sir Humphrey, the master of saying much while saying little, attempts to divert Minister Hacker from any and all of his goals and policies. The double-talk is so good, you know that someone connected to this show has been in and around the halls of government.
I’m not particularly familiar with the inner workings of British government. But I have seen state government from the inside. And anyone who watched the BS surrounding the passing of Obamacare knows that the writers and producers of Yes Minister didn’t have to make anything up.
That this comical series so resembles actual government is cause for alarm. But in Yes Minister, it is at least cause for laughter. When you see the truly selfish, power-mad, and corrupt people who typically inhabit government, it’s hard to believe that anyone believes the BS coming out of either Obama’s mouth or Boehner’s. Many, of course, don’t.
But most do, which is itself cause for alarm and perhaps laughter. It’s much easier and safer to poke fun at the politicians, as this series does to wonderful effect. But one hopes that someday there will be a comedy of this sort that pokes fun at the idiotic voters who keep voting for these political charlatans.
Much of this absurdity is simply inherent to the nature of government, or to the nature of bureaucracy itself. It is said that the wonderful cartoon, Dilbert, is specifically based upon the real-world bureaucratic nonsense of Raytheon and other large companies. This nonsense is by no means exclusive to government. But because government depends so largely on perception, rather than reality, the absurdity is multiplied.
I had first watched this series back in the 80’s. I recently watched the first four episodes of season one to refresh my memory. As Mark Steyn (and I) have said, if you want to see where America is headed, look to Britain. It’s very interesting that the fourth episode of season one (“Big Brother”) is regarding privacy issues regarding the comprehensive data that the British government is accumulating on its citizens. They faced (and still face) the same issue we recently encountered with the NSA domestic spying. Many of the lines and issues right out of this 80’s TV show are as relevant as ever.
Short of a revolution and a few beheadings, there is probably no way to reduce the bureaucracy and the size and scope of government. It just keeps growing and growing and becoming more absurd and dishonest. But one can at least laugh at it. And Yes Minister, anchored by the superb performances of Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne, allows us to do just that. But at times it’s a bit like whistling past the graveyard. It’s all too real.
This show is full of very thick political wisdom about the inherent corruption, waste, and self-interest of politicians and bureacracy. It is hard to imagine that a free people ever allowed this to grow like a cancer amongst us. But we have. I therefore recommend Yes Minister for not only a good laugh but as a crash-course in political reality. Everything these air-headed “Progressives” believe about the goodness of government is dangerously wrong. Just ask Sir Humphrey. • (898 views)