Collection of differences
When I was an Economics Honours student, our small class was visited by John Stone, who later became Secretary to the Treasury. He was on a Treasury recruitment mission. Early in his talk he referred to the Karmel Report on Education and how poor it was. Prof Karmel had been our Head of Department so I felt honour bound to take up the challenge: “Professor Karmel is a highly regarded economist, so how come this report is as bad as you say it is?”
Consider the Committee!
He did not go on the defensive, instead he gave us a pen picture of each member of the Committee that had produced the report. I remember one fellow being described as ‘a businessman who believes that there should be ten people lined up outside his factory gate for every vacancy he has available’.
As a student I had naively looked at reports as objective statements of fact, carefully argued. But after that visit, I saw that all reports are in fact a compromise of the various views of the members comprising the Committee. Before the visit I had thought that an ‘independent’ report meant it was independent of the government, but then who chooses the committee?
Unless we know who is on the Committee and the way they see the world, it is hard to appreciate the conclusions reached. Often the titular head of the committee, the one whose name is associated with the report – as Prof Karmel was in this case – is chosen for his reputation, but the committee is chosen for their views (and there are more of them!)