Friday, August 3, 2007

The Bureaucracy

Beginning with Roosevelt's "New Deal" in the 1930s, the number of organizations created by the government to accomplish miscellanious duties has become a complex mass known by acronyms that list off like an overly abbreviated text message: the IRS, CIA, USDA, NASA, USPS, etc. Bureaucrats accomplish everything from renewing our drivers licenses to defending our country from foreign enemies.

The bureaucracy is an institution that Americans famously love to hate, notorious for its maze of rules and red tape, its slowness, and its impersonalization. Many complain about the toll it takes in adding to the inconveniences of their day, but few realize the consequences it has elsewhere in their lives.

Those that work for the bureaucracy become normalized to the extensive rules that plague whom they serve. They see the logic behind requirements such as needing paperwork documentation for every action, often making it their life's work to see that every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed. This does not, however, foster independent thought. Bureaucrats spend forty hours a week enforcing rules for causes in which they grow to strongly believe and rarely question. Excluding the time one needs to sleep, eat, and run the inevitable errand, this leaves precious little time for truly personal use.

The result is an entire population of people who have been conditioned not to think, not to change, and not be individualistic - rather, they have conformed to the norms of the bureau.

I believe that the tasks they accomplish need to be done and someone obviously has to do them. But something very precious dies when an individual ceases to be just that - an individual. They lose a sense of person, a sense of presence, a sense of life. They get bored.

The real harm of the bureaucracy is not in the excessive rules or annoying red tape - it is the creation of ineffective human beings.


The Superlative State said...

First of all, I found your blog entry to be insightful and very interesting. It is a good point that the bureaucratic system tends to diminish individualism and unique thought. You say that
“the real harm of the bureaucracy is not in the excessive rules or annoying red tape - it is the creation of ineffective human beings.” I agree; however I think it is important to realize that the former is directly responsible for the latter. That being said, the bureaucratic system as a whole, with its excessive rules and red tape, must be reformed in order to allow individuals to think independently. The difficult question–How do we reform this huge, established, complex bureaucracy? I certainly don’t have an exact answer, but I think there are a few things to start with. First of all, I think the bureaucracy could be cleaned up a little bit–we could combine some offices with similar purposes that tend to compete with each other anyway. I also believe that allotting employers more flexibility in their jobs would lead to more creative work. Furthermore, I think that increasing the amount of contact that the agencies have with actual citizens would reduce the tendency of the bureaucracy to be so impersonal. I believe all of these reforms would create more effective humans beings, and thus a more effective bureaucracy.

KSeago said...

This is REALLY interesting and REALLY well-written. I think you're on to something important. Do you have any sense of how to unravel a bureaucracy?