Bureaucracy is a necessary evil. The population is way too big to deal with everything on a person to person basis. Procedures have to be streamlined and rules must be followed in order to discourage corruption. If someone in charge is allowed to “call em as they see em” like an umpire in baseball, then they can favor their friends or those that pay them off. For a system to be fare, the same rules must apply to all. A mechanized system is needed. All steps must be mandatory to unsure that nobody can go out of step and make up their own rules as they see fit.
Unfortunately, anything mechanical can fall into disrepair and a bureaucracy is no different. When our car has a breakdown, we can have a mechanic service it. However, when a bureaucracy gets clogged up with procedures, it isn’t a simple case of calling a plumber to unclog the drain. That’s because the purpose of bureaucracy is to remove authority and to replace it with procedures that resist people from side stepping the procedures in the first place!
If the regulations become counter productive, it’s very difficult to modify them. If the rules have become so rigid that people follow the rules blindly without thought, then these people also blindly defend against change! On top of this, the authority has been removed from those that previously had the power to prune the red tape! Over the years, bureaucracy has evolved into a more inflexible system. During this time, another thing has happened. The world has become much more litigious. This in turn is making people more and more afraid to make a decision!
This makes it scary not to hide under a procedure!
It’s much easier to say ‘NO’ than to say ‘YES’. You can’t write procedures that will deal with every possible problem. Therefore if a situation arises and there are no procedures for it, it’s safer to reject it. Today we live in the age of CAN’T. Instead of pondering how something can be done, we instinctively look for reasons why we shouldn’t do that particular thing.
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.
Fourteen-year-old Kayona Hagen-Tietz suffered from frostbite as she had to wait outside in her wet bathing suit during a fire drill. On that morning, the temperature was 5 below, and the wind chill was 25 below!
She wasn’t allowed to wait in a warm car in the parking lot. Her situation wasn’t covered in the procedures and therefore she had to wait at the emergency meeting point just as everyone else. Several teachers protested that she should be allowed sit in a warm car but they were over-ruled. Eventually after TEN MINUTES, the fire warden relented. The procedures didn’t make allowance for unusual circumstance and the power of ‘use your best judgement’ has been taken away from the supervisors. Therefore, she HAD to wait in the cold. It took ten minutes to find a supervisor that was brave enough to make a decision that was outside of the regulations.
The purpose of bureaucracy is to comply with procedure and to reduce corruption by removing the ‘human element’ that can bend the rules.
Unfortunately, the procedures often grow uncontrollably and even the person with the utmost authority can’t over-ride them. Red tape grows. It sometimes takes over and chokes out everything else like a noxious weed. This is the primary reason why bureaucracies often harm what they were originally trying to protect. For example, the military buys $3,000 toilet seats. They do this for two reasons.
- The government supplier has to jump through so many hoops that the price of the item increases to ridiculous proportions.
- Lack of competition. The government isn’t allowed to purchase from the local hardware store. This rigid procedure was established in order to reduce costs and prevent corruption. As a result, suppliers become corrupt because of nil competition. Established suppliers actually encourage the government to add more red tape in order to discourage new competitors from starting!
- An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals
- Officials make work for each other. He notes that the number employed in a bureaucracy rose by 5 -7% per year irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done……
In 1986, Alessandro Natta complained about the swelling bureaucracy in Italy. Mikhail Gorbachev responded that “Parkinson’s law works everywhere”.
In 2009 President Obama did a $5 billion stimulus package to weatherise 607,000 homes. The goal was to spur the economy, create jobs, and increase energy efficiency. This sounded like just what the country needed as it was teetering on the edge of another Great Depression! Times were tough and the government had to act fast! However, this had to comply with the Davis-Bacon Act from 1931. This states that federally funded construction projects must pay the prevailing wage for the particular county that the work will commence in.
However they soon ran into a monster of red tape. This is because there was no schedule for weatherproofers. Therefore, they had to assess these wages in three thousand counties across the United States. The goal was projected that in California, 2,500 per month would be weatherproofed. However at the end of the year, only a total of 12 were done. It seems as though the president doesn’t have the authority to over-ride procedures. This is still true even in an emergency! A great deal of this stimulus package was spent on administration and rep tape.
So much for acting fast.
This is a good example of how sometimes the goals and procedures often work against each other.
Although artificial intelligence is an impossibility, we seem to be hell bent on creating a mechanical decision maker to rule the country for us. We buy into the concept that if something is wrong, all we need to do to fix it is to create more laws and regulations!
Bureaucracy is a necessary evil. I started this letter with that. I won’t retract that comment. However, it has gone too far. Either extreme is disastrous. A society where authority is given too much power, (such as a dictatorship) is catastrophic! However, a society where laws and regulations are so ridged that common sense cannot be used is equally as destructive!