Progress derailed- bureaucracy at play
Bureaucracy is defined by Encyclopaedia as a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation.
It was first developed in the army where professional corps of officials were organised in a pyramidal hierarchy and functioning under impersonal, uniform rules and procedures.
Its characteristics were first formulated systematically by Max Weber, who saw in the bureaucratic organisation a highly developed division of labour and authority based on administrative rules rather than personal allegiance or social custom, and a ‘rational’ and impersonal institution whose members function more as ‘offices’ than as individuals.
For Weber, bureaucracy was a form of legalistic ‘domination’ inevitable under capitalism.
Later, writers saw in bureaucracy a tendency to concentrate power at the top and become dictatorial, as occurred in the then Union of the Socialist Soviet Union (USSR) now Russia.
Robert K. Merton described it as red tape and inefficiency due to blind conformity to procedures.
More recent theories have stressed the role of managerial cliques, occupational interest groups, or individual power-seekers in creating politicised organisations characterised by internal conflict.
Last week, I met a very agitated gentleman who had supplied goods to Government but for the last seven months was being toasted from one office to another.
He told me that in one of the correspondences he had with the Government, he got an official letter letting him know that the machine that prints cheques is broken down hence they were waiting for a new one from Asia. By the time the machine will arrive, it will be unfortunate that one of the signatories will be in Germany for three weeks attending a very important meeting.
At first, he told me he was very aggressive following up but he ended up seeing that he is losing more in following this money and just stopped.
The root problem with Government is the bureaucracy. But bureaucracies exist everywhere not only in Government but in business, non-profit organisations; educational institutions, unions, social organisations and anywhere more than a few people are involved.
But as ubiquitous as they are bureaucracies almost never function efficiently or effectively - at least not to the extent they need to do.
Thus, to fix any system operated by a number of individuals one must fix the bureaucracy if there is to be any hope of improvement. Someone said ‘the primary purpose of the bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself and it spends 80% of its effort doing so, while all the meaningful work gets done by 20% of the effort’.
There are, therefore, rules of bureaucracy I have noticed over the years.
Rule #1: Maintain the problem at all costs! The problem is the basis of power, perks, privileges and security.
Rule #2: Use crisis and perceived crisis to increase your power and control.
Rule #2a. Force 11th-hour decisions, threaten the loss of options and opportunities and limit the opposition’s opportunity to review and critique.
Rule #3: If there are not enough crises, manufacture them, even from nature, where none exist.
Rule #4: Control the flow and release of information while feigning openness.
Rule 4a: Deny, delay, obfuscate, spin, and lie.
Rule #5: Maximise public-relations exposure by creating a cover story that appeals to the universal need to help people.
Rule #6: Create vested support groups by distributing concentrated benefits and/or entitlements to these special interests, while distributing the costs broadly to one’s political opponents.
Rule #7: Demonise the truth-tellers who have the temerity to say, “The emperor has no clothes.”
Rule 7a: Accuse the truth-teller of one’s own defects, deficiencies, crimes and misdemeanours.