My letter to Santa Claus

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    Dear Santa,

    It’s not easy for me to write this letter.

    I have been an admirer of yours for many years.  I have been impressed with the way you have embraced reform within your own organisation, and not shied away from making brave decisions.

    I have supported you during the tough times, and when things have been good. I was right behind you when the elves launched legal proceedings after you made them all redundant and hired them back as independent contractors at half their hourly rates. What did they expect? That they could continue to do nothing for most of the time, working barely two months in a year while collecting a generous salary? And when you finally broke into the lucrative Chinese market I celebrated your success.

    But being a friend sometimes means having to be a critic. I want you to succeed, but I also want you to be the best deliverer of gifts you can be.  That’s why I’m writing to you. I don’t want to be too critical, but it feels as if things are starting to become a bit stale and predictable within your organisation. Maybe it’s time for a shakeup.

    I have some ideas for how you can improve your service delivery to customers, in order to optimise performance and create a more streamlined Christmas service. I want you to be a Santa Claus for the 21st century. A St Nick whose organisation follows recognised and established best practice models.

    Please don’t take these ideas as negative criticism. I really do value the work you do, but I know it can be done so much better.

    Make things more appealing

    I have always wondered at your ability to judge who is naughty and who is nice. Despite the millions of kids you have to assess on an annual basis, it amazes me how often you get it just right.  But I worry about the way you have set things up. I worry about the potential for abuse of the process in determining who is good and who is bad.

    I respect your judgement in most matters, but we all make mistakes from time to time. You may have magical powers, but let’s not pretend you’re perfect. Nobody is.

    I don’t mean to cast aspersions on your competence or integrity. But what would happen if you weren’t here? Should you eventually decide to hang up your red suit, or (heaven forfend!) one day suffer a terrible sleigh accident, we cannot assume that your successor will be as capable or fair-minded as you have shown yourself to be.

    It’s no wonder that most adjudicative processes allow a right of appeal or review. If a court or tribunal gets it wrong, the aggrieved party will normally have a right to appeal the decision. So I would ask you to consider establishing a tribunal to hear appeals from children whom you have decided are too naughty to receive any Christmas gifts.

    I know you’re a busy man, especially at this time of year. The last thing I want to do is add to your workload during such a frantic period. So in order to help move this idea forward, I have attached a memorandum setting out in detail how an appeal tribunal might operate, and how an appeal process might work.

    Let me give you a very brief summary of my memorandum, in case you decide you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

    I recommend the establishment of a tribunal comprising of at least three adjudicators. The head of the tribunal ought to be a High Court judge, and the other members should be practising lawyers.

    I have also outlined in my memorandum some timelines for the adjudication and appeal process.  If justice is to be done and children are to be treated fairly, you will need to issue your naughty/nice rulings by 30 June in each year. This will give those who consider themselves to have been treated unfairly to appeal your decision, and for those appeals to be properly heard. June is a quiet time for you, so I don’t anticipate you having any objections to this timeframe. Those children found naughty will then have 20 working days to appeal your decision. The new tribunal will hear all appeals by the end of November, and final decisions will be issued before Christmas Eve.

    While it may be tempting to keep lawyers out of the appeal process in order to make it more accessible and less intimidating to small children, I see the potential for miscarriages of justice if litigants are denied proper legal representation. Additionally, given the great upset that can occur when a child has been wrongfully deprived of Christmas gifts, the appeal tribunal should insist upon maintaining appropriate standards of formality and solemnity. So litigants and their legal representatives should wear proper attire. Gowns should be worn at all times. Santa hats and reindeer horn headgear may also be worn at the discretion of the presiding judge.

    I recommend that the tribunal be funded by its users, and I have set out in my memorandum a range of suggested application fees. In setting these fees I have been mindful of the need to make the justice process genuinely accessible, but also to deter vexatious child litigants. We all know how horrible and unreasonable small children can sometimes be.

    I would certainly welcome your feedback on my memorandum.

    Tough love

    I have long admired your policy of ensuring that children of wealthy parents receive better and more numerous gifts than those whose families are poor. It makes sense to favour the children of parents who have got ahead through their own hard work and industry. But in these politically-correct times, it must be tempting for you to just give all children the same number and quality of gifts.

    Still, I can’t help but wonder if this policy goes far enough. We have so many problems in our society, and a great many of them are the direct result of welfare dependency. By giving poor children gifts, albeit very often cheap and crappy ones, are you not sending the wrong message?

    It may seem tough on children whose parents already have so little, to deprive them even further. It may even seem contrary to the spirit of Christmas to deprive needy kids of festive joy. But so many of these families are trapped in cycle of dependency, and this cycle continues to be repeated from one generation to the next.

    Father Christmas, if we are ever going to break this cycle of dependency, and bring an end to all the misery and ills associated with poverty and welfare entitlement, we will all need to do our share.

    That is why you should give poor kids nothing. Not a single present. Don’t put anything under their Christmas trees. Leave their stockings unfilled.

    Children confronted with the horrors of an empty Christmas stocking will ask themselves why they have been neglected by Santa. They will wonder if they are being punished for their bad behaviour. They will quickly realise, however, that their lack of gifts is not a reflection on their personal behaviour, because hopefully you will have implemented the adjudication and appeal process suggested by me, and those children who have been genuinely naughty will have been forewarned.

    Those who have missed out due to poverty will come to realise that Santa’s decision to ruin their Christmas was in fact an act of kindness and charity.  Those children will have learned a powerful lesson about the value of hard work. They will have learned that they cannot simply expect a handout when things get tough.

    The children of more affluent parents should of course continue to benefit from your generosity. What sort of message would it send to the kids of prosperous and hard-working people, if you decided to miss them out too? Surely families who work hard and get ahead should be entitled to enjoy some benefits from their industriousness.

    By withholding Christmas cheer from the many families on welfare, you will be left with more gifts to distribute to those whose parents own the businesses that employ so many people, pay taxes, and contribute to our nation’s economic prosperity. They are the truly deserving.

    Santa, you have it in your power this Christmas to make a huge difference. You can choose to carry on as you do and provide most poor children with gifts, albeit modest ones. Or you can send a powerful message to the young about the value of hard work.

    It can be difficult to change the way things have always been done, but no organisation can remain stagnant if it wants to survive. I know you will take these suggestions seriously, because you almost always do the right thing.  Like when you decided to outsource most of your manufacturing to China, despite the enormous pressure placed on you by unions.  That was a tough call, but the right one. Your decision saved the business tens of millions of dollars a year and ensured its long-term survival. Incidentally, now that your premises at the North Pole are little more than an administrative office, I do hope you consider locating to somewhere with a more temperate climate. You will find it easier to get the skilled clerical staff you need for your operations, if you are not requiring employees to live and work in freezing conditions while risking death by polar bear on an almost daily basis. You may also wish to consider the potential tax benefits of locating to another jurisdiction, and I would urge you to seek professional advice on this matter. I can recommend an expert who specialises in cross-border taxation matters, if that would assist; although I expect you probably already have someone, as no doubt you had someone look at transfer pricing and other issues when you set up your Chinese operations.

    I am here for you, Santa. I want what is best for you and for Christmas. I would like to schedule a meeting with you and your advisers after Christmas to talk through these proposals, with a view to having a new system up and running by no later than 2016. You will no doubt need to consult with iwi groups and other stakeholders, as well as your shareholders and Mrs Claus, so the sooner we get things moving the better. I will email you a meeting invite shortly.

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