Bureaucrats. Sound familiar?

The following couple of paragraphs are from an exceptionally good and important book by Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute; it is called the Socialist Temptation.  This is a very important book to read because it might be considered a manual for Australian Government.

Here is a link to an interview with Murray about the book.

TAFKAS is about half way through.  Read it.  Pass it on.

In the socialist commonwealth, the bureaucrat is all important. In a planned economy, it is the bureaucrat that does the planning. In a communist tyranny, it is the bureaucrat who orders the executions. In a democratic socialist country, it is bureaucrats who oversee the nationalized industries and the social services. In a socialized health system, it is bureaucrats who decide when your hip operation will be and which medicines you have access to. The role of democracy in all of this is so limited that, as Seldon implies, it is practically meaningless.

Bureaucrats issue permits and decide who should get them. Bureaucrats preside over everything from life-and-death decisions down to whether or not your public housing is eligible for repairs. In the public health bureaucracies, bureaucrats decide what you can and can’t ingest or inhale.

And the bureaucrats are not drawn from the population at random. Some degree of expertise is required, so bureaucrats emerge from training programs administered after selection from (generally) a college-educated pool of applicants. Thus bureaucrats all over the world share two characteristics: they believe what they are doing is for your own good, and that, like the gentlemen in Whitehall, they know better than you.

If bureaucrats were drawn from the people at random, then at least occasionally there would be some who questioned the system. But because people generally aspire to become bureaucrats because they believe in the system, bureaucracy routinely validates itself.

So in the name of equality the socialist system empowers a special class of people to control or at least direct the lives of the majority. Over time, this class becomes entrenched, and has a tendency to become corrupt.

Not just corrupt.  Incompetent and self perpetuating.

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16 Responses to Bureaucrats. Sound familiar?

  1. Bruce

    “Not just corrupt. Incompetent and self perpetuating.”

    You seem to have neglected to add: self-serving and malicious”.

    “Nuremberg Defence” rules apply.

  2. duncanm

    Witness Canberra

    the designed-for-purpose removed-from-reality bureaucrat bubble.

    Another argument for decentralised government – more like the Swiss cantons, or maybe weakening State and Fed governments, and moving authority to local council level.

  3. Old School Conservative

    In a communist tyranny, it is the bureaucrat who orders the executions.

    This aspect was highlighted in a recent History Channel doco about the women of the Third Reich.
    Clerical workers had the job of selecting names scheduled for death. They did so quite matter-of-factly.
    Frightening.

  4. JohnJJJ

    to add a few things: Affirmative action and the bureaucratic mind: People who are hired now understand that they are part of a diversity policy. Hence they know they are not the best at their job and there are more competent people. So they must create a job environment where 1. this can never be found out and 2 they never have to compete with more competent people. The standard stategy is to create a mini kingdom of favours and keep any useful information secret. They must have people ‘owe them’ so in the rise to power they are obsequious, obscure and secretive, and try to influence the new hires to join their circle of favours. To ensure no one finds out they are incompetent, everyone has meetings with new gobbledygook training that no one understands, but they all nod. Very quickly the department becomes virulent and , of course, completely useless . Hey welcome to Victoria!

  5. Sentinel Man

    A Bureaucrat is someone who is too timid to face the realities of the real business world, too lazy to get a proper job and too nervous to steal. My sister-in-law is a classic bureaucrat who demonstrates the Peter Principle for all the world to see and yet she has just been promoted again.

  6. H B Bear

    The end point? Victoriastan, a 30 year experiment coming to fruition.

  7. Des Deskperson

    ‘The end point? Victoriastan, a 30 year experiment coming to fruition.’

    This guy seems a bit confused.

    On the one hand he is banging on about bureaucracy in a one party state, where the public sector is an arm of the party and bureaucrats are almost always required to be party members.

    Then he switches to a rather stock caricature of a Westminster system bureaucracy that supposedly actually calls the shots and remains perpetually in control while politicians come and go.

    The latter, as I’ve argued before, has been out of date, at least at the Federal level, for several decades.

    The point about Victoria – from what former VPS public servants tell me – is that it is no longer the old school system but it neither does it have the ethical framework that still enables the Federal system – at least some of the time – to be more ‘responsive’ to the requirements of the elected government in developing and implementing its policies while continuing to be objective, effective and ethical.

    In the VPS – reportedly – there has been a huge turnover of staff and the replacements have been either members or fellow travellers of the ALP and/or newbies with no idea of the ethical framework that underpins Westminster system. In the words of one of my informants, ‘people are being required to do what they should never do as public servants’ – ALP party political work.

  8. H B Bear

    I wish I had your faith in the APS Des. ASIC, APRA, ACCC and the 100s you never hear of prevent me. Better than the VPS is a pretty low bar but I guess it is a start. The APS is saved by rarely getting its hands on the levers, when it is required to do so (remember pink batts) the results were similarly unimpressive. The private sector is often no better (HIH for example) but is generally self-correcting and importantly, providing the government stays out of it, doesn’t cost me money directly.

  9. Tim Neilson

    In the VPS – reportedly – there has been a huge turnover of staff and the replacements have been either members or fellow travellers of the ALP and/or newbies with no idea of the ethical framework that underpins Westminster system. In the words of one of my informants, ‘people are being required to do what they should never do as public servants’ – ALP party political work.

    Des, friends of mine who work, or used to, in the VPS say that even in the Bracks/Brumby days it was well known that most ministers’ number one priority was that there was to be no record that they’d ever been told anything, and there was a culture of assiduously refraining from giving ministers real info or real advice, at least in any circumstance where there was a danger that that might be discoverable.
    So a rot of sorts seems to have existed for some time.

  10. Nob

    Then he switches to a rather stock caricature of a Westminster system bureaucracy that supposedly actually calls the shots and remains perpetually in control while politicians come and go.

    That is how most ordinary punters, especially those trying to run a business, see it.

    That is how they see it because that is how they experience it.

    They don’t , as a rule, read the cat or political tracts and rants.

    Their hatred and fear of bureaucracy is because they experience at first hand how it can ruin businesses and lives , at no risk to itself, and just generally put a wet soggy blanket over everything creative, dynamic, interesting and fun.

  11. Entropy

    My dealings with the APS is that it is seriously out of touch with the community. It was wasn’t too bad sat thirty years ago when the majority of people were temporary Canberra residents who came from elsewhere. Nowadays most are second or third gen Canberra residents.

    It reminds me of that Bette Midler song “from a distance”.

    And they keep thinking because they control the cash they have a clue about delivering services in North Queensland. If they cared at least a bit you could almost forgive them, but they are so busy churning through various positions no one is is in same area, let alone job for more than 12 to 18 months. A mobile public service is a very desirable feature for the content free. Never staying in the same job too long means you are never accountable.

    It is exacerbated by this trend of super departments. Ostensibly “cost savings” it saves nothing of course, but does create an extra layer of SES and opportunities for SES on the make from all the merging creative destruction. And the extra layer of SES of course requires its own army of reporting admin staff to find out what is going on. And a monolith turns inward addressing its own concerns.

  12. Des Deskperson

    ‘The APS is saved by rarely getting its hands on the levers, when it is required to do so (remember pink batts) the results were similarly unimpressive. ‘

    Both the pink batts scandal and the equine flu debacle of 2007 were certainly the results of catastrophic failures of diligence by APS employees, but both, err, events occurred because the ethical framework under which the service operates was ignored or overridden, in the first case in order to please a Government and in the second case through inertia, incompetence and complacency.

    No one was ever held accountable. The equine flu people were allowed to retire. The pink batts people were actually promoted.

  13. nb

    This is useful, but isn’t it just a rehash of the common understanding of the effect of multi-generational Canberra public service careerism?

  14. Fair Shake

    China went full retard down this bureaucratic path with Confucius. So what is civilisation loses a millinnea or two.

  15. Epidermis

    duncanm
    #3589453, posted on September 18, 2020 at 4:11 pm
    Witness Canberra

    the designed-for-purpose removed-from-reality bureaucrat bubble.

    Another argument for decentralised government – more like the Swiss cantons, or maybe weakening State and Fed governments, and moving authority to local council level.

    Yes to the canton system but ensure we have their system of referenda, the voice of the people.

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