Gatekeepers and Illusionary Choices

  • Posted on: 26 June 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe


In a big town, you can choose who you share your toys with. In a small town, one guy can run the whole toy chest. Years back, I knew a former art teacher who moved into sign painting. He was an adequate graphic designer. At the time, all he did was paint. I asked his wife, “Has he thought about doing the design?” She replied, “No: there’s one guy in town who does it and he gets all of the business, so Dave does the painting, but this company does the sign designs.” That field has very much changed. Chokepoint goto people in web hosting, e-commerce, desktop publishing used to exist at the dawn of those industries. There would be leading players and they would be the only game in town. The singularity of options meant that the low number of players could charge obscene sums and get paid. The proliferation of talent and tools eventually made those formulas change to the benefit of the end players.

In some cases, diversity can be impractical. You cannot have two Federal governments. You cannot have two sewage systems. You cannot build two bridges in the same spot. When there is only one option, you have to work on a way to get along with the card dealt to you. In Victoria, people can shop jurisdictions. If you don’t like the business license process in Victoria, set up shop in Langford. If you don’t like Oak Bay’s property taxes, move to Metchosin (psst-- they have checkered shirts in lieu of tweed waistcoats, but otherwise you will not notice the difference).

What happens in Victoria all too often: there still exists chokepoints. People get into gatekeeper positions and then they hunker down. A good small example was a big building on Quadra Street with a little used bookstore in the basement. The whole building was up for sale and the signs directed people to ask the bookstore owner. Well, if the building sold, the bookstore owner would be out on his ass. The store owner was not the building owner, but the building owner didn’t want to be bothered fielding the calls. Everybody who went through the bookstore got stonewalled, “Yep, I’ll pass on the phone number” and “Nope, he’s not interested in selling.” Eventually someone got past the gatekeeper. The building sold and the bookstore was out on its perfect bound ass.

Dysfunctional building owners stand adamant that they will not sell and will not refurnish their properties. The buildings gracefully rot and nothing will happen. The owners stand as gatekeepers. I really believe in the libertarian “a [human’s] home is [his/hers] castle” and that people should not be able to boss others around. Still, there is a point where one obstinate player can impact another’s life.

Victoria has many gatekeepers. “Go talk to so-n-so” happens over and over. If so-n-so likes you, you’re Golden. If so-n-so doesn’t like you, it’s an uphill battle that may be something you want to give up on. You cannot steer around the gates, you have to pay the toll. Other towns are like this too, but I just know about our local extraneous city walls. In addition to being a libertarian, I am an upstart. I want to tear the walls down and make quality the meter of success, not affection.

Singleton Options

In some cases you do not get gatekeepers, you get situations where all of the options save one are removed and then people are allowed to freely choose any of the remaining options. That absence of choice goes top to bottom locally.

The sewage plan needed research before proceeding. They needed to discover which was the best option. One player was making the decision on the process. That one player didn’t fully research alternatives. Armed with one approach, they asked that people get behind the single available option.

When Victoria had its bridge design feedback, the public selected one of the options when forced to make a decision. Then the council decided on the second most popular design.

We have a dearth of options available in many situations. We are then presented with the illusion of choice and obliged to choose.

What do you think?

I would ask you:
  • Do you think Victoria has a lot of gatekeepers? Do you have examples?
  • Do you think you are given a choice but indeed only have single options? Do you have an example?

Image from Pixabay

Last updated date

Monday, September 30, 2019 - 17:12