As the name applies, we can do things automatically without any thought.
This is a scathing attack on bureaucracy while at the same time it’s standing up for bureaucrats.
Q. How can you be on both sides?
A. I’m not. I’m highlighting the concept of a third side. A bureaucracy is like a ship. The bigger the bureaucracy, the bigger the ship AND THE MORE LIKELY THAT IT HAS NO CAPTAIN! This is the third side. I want to show that the system has taken on a life form of it’s own. Many bureaucrats have little or no power. They can only follow procedures or get fired. (even jailed!)
Many bureaucrats are only the crew members without a captain! The ‘enemy’ is its own growth that spreads uncontrollably like a noxious weed! The bureaucrats themselves have lost control and became slaves to their own creation! Regulations and procedures rule the roost. If they encounter any circumstance that isn’t covered under the procedures, they find themselves ‘stuck’. That’s because their authority to use judgement has been greatly undermined!
Bureaucracies cause many problems. Certainly the system needs to be fixed. However, before we can fix the problem, we have to understand it. Let’s start by investigating the pros and cons of a bureaucracy.
In the good ole days, corruption was rampant. If you had the connections, it was easy to sell to or provide service to the government. As long as you paid off the politician that awarded you the contract, you had a certainty that you would get similar deals in the future. The cancerous effect of this corruption ranged from; only a select few can work for the government, to only those in the police favor (or paid them) will receive protection. In order to combat this problem, a mechanized system was needed that was immune to favoritism and to ensure that rules are followed.
For example, bureaucratic regulations and rules help ensure that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes appropriate precautions to safeguard the health of Americans when it’s in the process of approving a new medication. Likewise, the impersonal qualities of a bureaucracy can have benefits. For example, an applicant must submit a great deal of paperwork to obtain a student loan from the government. This process promotes equal treatment of all applicants, meaning that everyone has a fair chance to gain access to funding. In order for this to happen, an inflexible system had to be established so that favoritism, friendships and political clout have no effect and that rules must be followed by all.
However, by doing so, we’ve created another problem. It’s powerful. It had to be in order to stand up to the powerful people that demanded special treatment. Therefore, the personal aspect had to be reduced. This is because thinking is the ‘Achilles’ heel or weakness in the system. If the system was controlled by a single person or a small committee, they could be bargained with. Rules could be bypassed, and the whole system compromised. The end result is a very POWERFUL AND UNTHINKING system – therein lies the problem.
The bureaucracy itself has come to life. And like all life forms it grows and has a defensive system against attack. It grows more and more inflexible, and defends itself vigorously against anyone that suggest that the bureaucracy has become too extreme in its rigidity. On top of this, the vulnerability of the Achilles heel is continually being reduced by hindering thinking and making the system even more mechanical.
The founding purpose of a bureaucracy is to be unaffected by favoritism and it has countermeasures against people that try to alter/influence the system. Although the system can resist the leverage from individuals, it can still be susceptible to the force of a strong movement such as big business. The end result is that if the system goes astray from it’s original purpose, it’s difficult to correct this because an individual is almost powerless. However a large business can influence the bureaucracy to continue to overstep. In essence, a bureaucracy can actually HELP big business to exploit the individual which is what bureaucracy was originally trying to prevent! This force has grown into a powerful monster with a limited thinking ability. The safety bureaucracy (for example) has grown to be as volatile as Godzilla attacking Tokyo!
A large organization can still influence a bureaucracy AS LONG AS THEIR GOALS ARE SIMILAR.
For example, a large pharmaceutical company can’t shortcut the FDA to get a drug approved. However, the News media that thrives on scaremongering can influence the Child Protection Authority (CPA) by spreading (and fabricating) fear that children are in constant danger. There are other industries that reap more profit as fear increases. Insurance companies thrive from increased safety standard. That’s because they have to pay out whenever accidents occur. Increasing safety is a good thing. However, when it’s taken to the extreme it increases danger in other areas. Insurance doesn’t have to pay out when the danger is moved into an area that they aren’t responsible for. The overall danger can in increased 100 times and still benefit insurance!
Take for the workforce for example. We all know about the stress associated with a faltering economy. Crime, domestic violence, depression, and suicide all increase when unemployment is high. The government has an even harder time to staff hospitals. This results at even more people dying of curable ailments. In spite of this, The Safety Bureaucracy (TSB) keeps coming up with regulations that are so extreme that business struggle to afford to comply with all of these rules. The end result is that the safety bureaucracy actually ENCOURAGES business to close down and re-open overseas! TSB actually encourages a more dangerous lifestyle!
There are several other organizations that benefit from fear. (and help to keep TSB growing even more extreme) These are some of them:
- The police force uses scare tactics in order to increase their budget.
- Some lawyers seek out (or make up) anything even remotely dangerous and broadcast for clients in the same way a salesman can use a megaphone.
- The Safety Industrial Complex has become a multi billion dollar industry. Today do we have products such as baby knee pads. (which helps crawling safer) On top of that, businesses are forced to hire consultants that seek out risks no matter how small. These ‘risks’ can be like germs on the hands of a compulsive hand washer.
With all these billions of dollars (and revenue) that are made from scaremongering, trying to keep things into perspective can be like trying to shovel sand against the tide! The founding purpose of Bureaucracy is to protect people from exploitation or unfair treatment.
In the The 1968 film, 2001 Space Odyssey portrayed a mission to Mars. The artificially intelligent computer named Hal was state of the art and was designed to assist the space mission. However, things became unstuck when Hal malfunctioned. In his cyber mind, he determined that the crew were jeopardizing the mission. Therefore, he killed them! This is very dramatic, however it’s a great parable to the way bureaucracy can end up destroying what it was designed to protect!
The main cause of why bureaucracy malfunctions is because of growth. It’s own growth can become out of control and spread like a virus! The power that enabled the bureaucracy to protect runs unbridled. and can be very destructive.
According to Parkinson’s Law, the never ending growth is caused by two forces:
- An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals
- Officials make work for each other. He notes that the number of employed in a bureaucracy rose by 5–7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done