As my readers know, I spend a lot of time laying into Greece on this blog. The fact that I live in the UK will perhaps suggest to some people that I've fallen prey to the American Uncle Disease, whereby Greeks living abroad denounce the old country in the belief that their adopted homeland is perfect.
I am under no illusions that my country of residence is some libertarian paradise, and having voted in some pretty disappointing Conservatives back home in my time, I also won't delude myself that the current Con-Dem government in the UK is any more enlightened than the last Labour one.
But they did do one thing today that I seriously wish could happen back home. They published, no questions asked, the complete dataset of the last year's public expenditure and this year's budgets, item by item, to minute detail. It runs to a wholesome 10GB of data, which you can download, without any clearance or registration required, from here. You can get even the data through BitTorrent, which is so cool I don't have words for it.
The database is even more accessible from the Guardian website (of all places).
So, if you want to know, say, how much the UK Government spent on consultants in 2008/9 (£1.8bn), you can. You don't need to *know* anyone, or pay anyone, or be a member of the press, or steal somebody's briefcase, or sleep with a morbidly obese government official who's into BDSM, or whatever. You just go online and get it as is your goddamn right as a taxpayer. And if you don't like what you see, you write to whoever's responsible, copy in a major TV station or newspaper and watch the culprits squirm.
The second UK innovation I'd like Greece to copy ASAP is a Non-Job of the Week column. In fact I might start writing it myself. That's when you rummage through the most recent list of public sector vacancies to find the stupidest and most wasteful public sector jobs going. Then you make fun of them, and the people that came up with them. It's free and it keeps public officials on their porcine little trotters. In fact, it should be easy to compile this as all public sector jobs are advertised by ASEP and in the Careers section of most of our main dailies.
Well, a man can dream.