Who would have thought that a morning visit to Tuffin's Annual Fun Day at Churchstoke in Montgomeryshire would promote understanding of the mightily complex subject, international relations. But that is what happened to me this morning. When I first arrived, I saw only total chaos. Thousands of people, wandering around aimlessly. When I left, I grasped what Hedley Bull was going on about when he wrote 'The Anarchical Society', and even what Edmund Burke was talking about when he was wittering on about 'little platoons' (but that's a different story). After Sallie, one of the family firm that run the whole Tuffin's enterprise, had taken me on tour, explaining what was actually happening, I grasped that what I'd seen as chaos was an organised anarchy - a wonderful example of the realist's view of how the world functions.
I don't remember much about Bull's theories. Too long ago. But I can recall that it was something to do with world society being apparently anarchical, but actually being divided into states which interrelated with each other, each conscious of the limits imposed by an international society. Despite all the individual states seemingly pursuing their own individual interests, the whole works successfully as a society - even without the help of international law as an enforcing mechanism. This morning the more I looked, the more everything was working in perfect harmony - and the more I understood Hedley Bull's theory.
Another lesson of this morning was the value of data - or not. As leaving I asked, quite casually, how many people attended the fun day. Its a massive event, and many thousands must attend. Incredibly (for me anyway) no-one knew - because no-one counted them. Brilliant. When you think about it, knowing how many people attend is a useless statistic. If there's a need to react because there are too many or too few people, changes will be made for next year - but knowing the actual attendance is useless data. The clarity and logic of this approach is stunning in its simplicity. Government can learn so much from Tuffin's. The principle is that if there is no clear use for the data, don't collect it. The nation could save billions that way.
Tuffin's Fun Day is an annual event, so you'll have to wait until next year until you can benefit from one of the best lessons in international relations available anywhere in the world. Its a fabulous day out as well.