Obit of Sir Anthony Jay, co-creator of Yes Minister

This is from the Telegraph obit:

“However, not many, perhaps, were aware that the serial was commissioned with a serious political purpose: to popularise public choice theory. It is because it succeeded spectacularly that Jay received a knighthood in 1988.”

There are numerous interesting points in the obituary, for instance:

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was said to be a No 1 fan.

For the pointer I thank David Stein.  And here is my earlier Conversation with Margalit Fox, senior obituary writer for The New York Times.

Comments

'“However, not many, perhaps, were aware that the serial was commissioned with a serious political purpose: to popularise public choice theory. It is because it succeeded spectacularly that Jay received a knighthood in 1988.”'

There must be a name for the implied fallacy that Jay received a knighthood due to his popularizing public choice theory.

Apologies, but even at my most charitable after finishing dinner, this passage makes no sense in relation to a series broadcast starting in 1981 - 'Jay incorporated the public choice lessons implicit in Yes, Minister in a series of guides, including Management and Machiavelli (1967); Effective Presentation (1970); Corporation Man (1972); The Householder’s Guide to Community Defence Against Bureaucratic Aggression (1972)'

Possibly, there is some UK grammar explanation relating to 'incorporating' and a series of guides, but to use the German term, this seems verkehrt. 'From a series of guides' sounds closer to the actual situation relating to the actual dates.

'From a series of guides' is less ambiguous. The public choice lessons are in those guides, and those lessons were incorporated, so what was written isn't ligically wrong, but poorly constructed to the point of being bad. The way it is written has two possible interpretations about which came first, and you have to think about the dates to work out which it is. It's not UK thing, just not thought through well.

However, not many, perhaps, were aware that the serial was commissioned with a serious political purpose: to popularise public choice theory. It is because it succeeded spectacularly that Jay received a knighthood in 1988.”

James Buchanan received his Nobel a half dozen years after Yes, Minister went on the air. That aside, why would Sir Humphrey or Sir Frank put a man who had revealed their trade secrets on the honors list?

From the obit: "In economics public choice theory assumes that all economic actors – businessmen, consumers, politicians and bureaucrats – are motivated primarily by individual gain. Thus, politicians pursue re-election and bureaucrats pursue budget-maximisation, while voters and interest groups chase free lunches." Does public choice theory address the influence of special interests who fund the election of politicians who will adopt policies favorable to those special interests? Policies that might adversely affect everyone and everything else, including the planet? Is it a "free lunch" when everyone and everything else but not the special interests bears the costs of those policies?

Yes, rayward, that is a key component of public choice theory - any situation with concentrated benefits and dispersed costs will tend to result in interest groups influencing politicians to behave in a manner other than the "public interest".

Assuming that politicians will put the public interest ahead of their self interest is a mistake that many make.

Maybe guys like Mugabe watch Yes Minister and think that all career bureaucrats are just obstructive rentiers looking out only for their own positions and livelihoods, and forget that career bureaucrats might actually know what they're talking about and have a valid reason for obstructionism.

"Hacker: What about Sir Frank? He's head of the Treasury!
Bernard: Well I'm afraid he's at an even greater disadvantage in understanding economics: he's an economist."

From what I can tell, every joke in the TV series is some variant of this one.

Perhaps try reading the books. I did, and found them very enjoyable.

Agree with you, but the TV performances were remarkably good.
There are three choices, minister. The ridiculous, the one the bureaucracy wants and the courageous one, not presented as such. Taught me as a teen not to accept limited choices presented by someone who may have ulterior motives (everyone). There are not an unlimited number of choices, but there are always more.

Yep, but it's a good joke to have variations of. There are actually a few other jokes too, but not many. Get Smart had the same few jokes over and over. Both classic comedies.

The humor comes from the inevitablility of the few well known jokes arising repeadedly in the various contexts. The repeated joke effectively comments on the situations in which the joke arises. It helps illustrate the bureacratic sameness of the situations.

Read the bits on Europe:
https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Yes,_Minister

It's been the same thing over and over for the last thirty years or so, so it seems more than a bit harsh to condemn Jay for repetition.

There must be similar issues of tussles between the political Cabinet appointees and the career bureaucrats in the US ( though not to the same extent ) , but why is it not covered in any form of literature , or TV or Film etc. ?

I question the Telegraph story that Tyler cites and from which he quotes. It just doesn't ring true, at least not in the way it's written. The Guardian obituary explains that "Jay was knighted in 1988, at about the time Yes, Prime Minister ended, though apparently for his much earlier work as a producer of the Queen’s Christmas broadcasts."

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/aug/23/sir-antony-jay-obituary
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/aug/24/jonathan-lynn-antony-jay-obituary-letter

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