Deskbound Realities

The year was 1980-something. The place, West Virginia. I remember hearing the news about (and having several friends/acquaintances personally hit by) massive layoffs at a number of large companies. These layoffs disproportionately affected those who where known as “middle management.” That is, they weren’t the low-level managers who were directly responsible for meeting production goals or handling employees nor were they the upper-level managers who were arguably setting policy for the company and navigating it through some difficult economic times.

That is, these were bureaucrats who just weren’t adding much to the bottom line. Today, we are looking at a possible enormous expansion of middle-management–in government this time. With that context, Chris Chantrill examines government bureaucracies and finds them wanting:

When they fall, or rather fail, according to the implacable Law of Unintended Consequences, politicians and activists just demand another bureaucracy to supervise the first one.

But why does anyone think that a vast bureaucratic health system is going to deliver good health care? Bureaucracies are not instituted among men to provide service. They are immovable intermediaries between a powerful sovereign and a powerless people. They are created to control people. This is obvious if you study the origins of the modern bureaucracy.

[Emphasis mine.]

Is that not true? Bureaucracies exist to protect the head of an organization/country (and in the end, to protect themselves).

Government bureaucracy really got its start in western culture when the monarchs of Europe wanted to extract more taxes from their peoples. They needed the money to finance their armies and to copy the extravagant lifestyle of Louis XIV in France. Thus 18th century Prussian kings like Frederick the Great worked overtime to smash the traditional social structures and local power elites so they could extract more taxes.

In those days, society was organized locally. People in the cities belonged to guilds and other corporate groups. They owed their loyalty and paid their taxes to their local leaders rather than to kings. To get around the local power centers, the kings created tax-collection bureaucracies to identify potential sources of revenue and extract directly from the people the taxes needed for the army and the royal palace.

Go, read it all and consider how this security blanket of universal health care is a poor trade for the burden which more regulation, red tape, and taxation will bring. In short, isn’t it time to get rid of a few desks, instead of adding more of them?