11 July 2011

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister is one of the funniest, cleverest television shows ever made. It's also a work of political propaganda.

To espouse the ideals behind public choice theory, Sir Anthony Jay began writing Yes Minister. Once you understand the philosophy behind it, it becomes impossible to view the show in any other way. The public servants, as exemplified by Sir Humphrey Appleby all work to thwart the government where it tries to break down the barriers preventing social progress. But even though the politicians express a desire to help the people, they ultimately end up only serving their own interests as well. The only real difference between Humphrey and Hacker is that Humphrey is at one with his selfish nature, where Hacker cannot admit it to himself. This lack of self-awareness allows Humphrey to easily manipulate him. Most of Hacker’s noble plans are shelved because Humphrey either shows or engineers it such that to pursue the noble policy would damage Hacker’s own self interest.

I first learned this through the amazing Adam Curtis' long documentary The Trap, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

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