Thursday 17 December 2009

The Gnomes of Canterbury

It's good to be at a place with a good history.

I checked around a bit this morning for where the term "The Gnomes of Canterbury" originated. Best I can reckon, it's this Bruce Jesson article from Auckland Metro, August 1986. [Update 2019: linkrot set in on the prior link. This should work now.]

Jesson first complains that Treasury and the Reserve Bank have taken too strong a hold of the policy process in Wellington (the reforms of the mid-1980s)
Cabinet as a whole is overwhelmed by the expertise, volume and sense of certainty of the economic advice. Most ministers have been reduced to nonentities. And the people of real power in the inner circles of government are public servants like Graham Scott (Treasury) and Rod Deane (formerly of the Reserve Bank, now State Services Commission).
He then lists the formidable opponents of the "Treasury View", primarily centered at Victoria University but also at Massey and Auckland. Treasury supporters, on the other hand, are found at one place above all:
Support for the Treasury approach is concentrated at Canterbury where Professor Richard Manning, Labour Party adviser and Reserve Bank appointee, is the intellectual authority. Many Treasury officials are Canterbury graduates, which means that government policies are dominated by the thinking of a particular university department.
The article is consequently titled "The Gnomes of Canterbury". My currently silent co-blogger is of course a student of Manning's. As we celebrated graduation here this week, Hoorah the Gnomes of Canterbury, past, present and future!

Update: It's difficult to imagine how "gnome" could be given as a term of opprobium. Consider the following:
  • Favoured character class either wizard (illusionist) or bard

  • Their intricate society is shaped by their shared love of the arts, pranks, and longevity

  • Practical jokes are perceived as contests of wit and skill

  • Gnomes' hats indicate their level and place of education; they rarely go hatless

  • They seem to favour a Montessori style early education

  • Courtship comprises a series of practical jokes with the intended being the target

  • The burgomaster (village leader) gains the position by virtue of being the wittiest among the villagers during a competition to most improve the lives of co-villagers

My current D&D character started as a human but is slowly turning into some kind of dragon. I think my next one will be a gnome.

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