Thursday, 26 May 2016

Market share and the past: part 1

Before you start worrying about how much of the pie
you are going to get, you really have to ask yourself:
"Just how big is this pie?"
A few days ago I noticed a petition reacting to the implications for British archaeology in something within the Queen's speech to both houses of parliament at the state opening of parliament:  Stop Destruction Of British Archaeology. Neighbourhood and Infrastructure Bill.

Just in case anyone did not understand which part of the Queen's speech this referenced, the matter was clarified: "To support the economic recovery, and to create jobs and more apprenticeship, legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow." A typo in the linking page had "and" in front of "business". That part of the speech was 27 words. The speech, itself, was a modest 937 words, so this quote was 2.88% of that particular pie.

Still, we have not got down to the business of the Neighbourhood and Infrastructure Bill, yet. Happily, the Queen's speech is fully clarified in a British Government document, and we find the particular part that is worrying some archaeologists and others: "Planning Conditions: To ensure that pre-commencement planning conditions are only imposed by local planning authorities where they are absolutely necessary." That is 20 words and the entire clarification is 20,435 words excluding the contents and page footers.That represents 0.097% of this much larger pie.

But wait a minute, the only mention of archaeology or archaeologists in this clarification is:  "£3 million of the Cultural Protection Fund is already dedicated to the British Museum's Iraqi Rescue Archaeology Programme, training Iraqi archaeologists in conservation and protection techniques."  So we are really dealing, in the context of the Neighbourhood, and Infrastructure Bill, with a virtual archaeology that might be threatened. I really do not know how, or even if it is possible to determine the value of a virtual amount of 0.097% of something. even if we adopt the viewpoint that, to archaeology, this 0.097% has become an entire pie, we are worrying about a virtual slice of an unspecified size.

We obviously have to take a different approach. Right now, the number of signatures on the petition is at 13,826 and it is reasonable to assume that the British government might be concerned about what percentage of the latest figures for the the total number of UK parliamentary electors this represents. That pie is 44,722,000 voters, so the current petition slice sits at 0.03% of that pie. Although the government has said that they would respond to to 10,000 signatures, it appears that they are not in great hurry to do this. I can certainly understand that such a response would not be considered a high priority. They also have said that 100,000 signatures would result in the matter being considered for debate in parliament. Drat! we are back to virtual values again.

In the U.S., things are done rather differently: When I was doing some voluntary promotional work for the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, I was mostly concerned about the allowed public responses to Memoranda of Understanding between the U.S. and other nations about import restrictions on ancient coins. Over all, we were getting in excess of 80% support from the public to reject the MoU's in these public responses. There were no government promises of response nor debate; the opposition was just ignored, and all of the MoU's were ratified. I am not saying that the British system is better, mind you. What is really happening is that the British government is waving a larger carrot in front of the horse.

Tomorrow: the "Art Pie" and how big are both the ancient and contemporary slices of that pie?

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