Popping up on the old Facebook feed this week was a little story off the Lost Perth page. It concerns the old Kellerberrin Hotel which unfortunately burnt down in 1997.
Construction work on the Kellerberrin Hotel commenced in May 1906 with the contractor being Mr Joseph Richardson. Constructed from locally made bricks, the contract price was 3,100 pounds. The owner, local storekeeper Mr Stuart (‘Bung’) Patterson, was granted a publican’s general licence on condition that the hotel be erected by October 1 to the satisfaction of the police. The Hotel was opened on 8 October, 1906.
Here’s a photo of the pub after it was built.
What strikes me is the amount of time that it took in 1906 to build such an impressive building in what was back then, (and let’s be honest, still is), the middle of Goddamn nowhere. What is also revealing is that the publican only stood to get his trading licence if the place went up fast. Presumably the cops had a hell of a thirst on and didn’t want to see any stuffing around.
Notwithstanding the cost to complete such a building today, the time to do so would be a great deal longer. The reason for this is the number of rules and regulations which are placed like barriers in front of anyone wishing to create something of value in present day Australia. It’s been happening for a long time in other parts of the world as well.
Let’s think about fast and slow. The Empire State Building was built in a little over 15 months. The World Trade Center (Tower 1) took 52 months, and that was in 1970. Most recently, One World Trade Center took 7 years to complete. We’re slowing down; we’re not as good at what we used to do.
The reason for this is regulation (and its bastard child, litigation). That’s the problem. We have buildings full of people that make us stop what we’re doing, fill out forms in triplicate, and then wait months or years before we are allowed to pick up where we stopped.
Here is an interesting graph that Borepatch provides in his piece concerning innovation. It is called the S Curve.
The S Curve illustrates how new industries and technologies leapfrog each other to create a continuous line of progress, a process which began with the industrial revolution. But excessive regulation and litigation not only impede but destroy this process.
Think for a minute what this does. It pushes some of the middle of the S-Curve into the flat part, reducing the overall value of the industry, as resources get sidelined instead of being engaged in production. More damagingly, it pushes the next S-Curve to the right, increasing the time that it takes to bring a new industry online. Most damagingly of all, it possibly completely eliminates some S-Curves from appearing at all, because the risk is too high to attract investors.
There is something else which regulation inflicts upon our economies – a thick veneer of mediocrity and ugliness. It is vastly more difficult to create buildings of beauty and historical value when every step has to be approved by some soulless bureaucrat who recoils from original ideas like a cat from a bubble bath. The Empire State Building is infinitely more beautiful than the World Trace Center was, which itself was more beautiful than the current One World Trade Center.
And the old Kellerberrin hotel, a magnificent example of gold rush architecture was replaced by this after it unfortunately burnt to the ground.
The cardboard beer signs appear to have been swept against the cheap metal fence by a dust storm rolling in from Kalgoorlie. The whole thing reeks of compromise and adherence to occupational health and safety. I assume that there are plenty of facilities for disabled people to roll up and down.
How much money did the builder have to spend on the council approval process and the countless regulations with which he would have had to comply? In the old days it was as simple as getting an architect to draw you something, getting a competent builder, and sourcing the materials. So simple that they did it in under 5 months back in 1906. I wonder how long it took them to build this lump of ugliness? And I have no doubt that the residents of Kellerberrin who once drank in the old pub feel like something has been lost to them. Their lives are worse off because of a fire.
As Borepatch notes, Trump has removed 2000 regulations in his first year in office and he’s only getting started. Meanwhile in Australia we have governments that boast about how many pieces of legislation they have managed to pass while in office. A hundred years ago we were a country that got stuff done, and often against incredible odds. Now we are mired in the most excessive OH&S regime imaginable, with regulations galore, a litigious society, and the most expensive electricity in the world.
The attitude today to our forefathers is one of dismissive intolerance. But in many ways we have not progressed, we have not improved, and we are certainly not better people than those who lived a hundred years ago. How thrilling it would be for ordinary Australians to once again be able to go out and just get stuff done.