Bounties, Bureaucracy, the Press, and Heat.
May 22, 2014 2 Comments
OK, this is not the post I promised you this morning, it’s an addendum covering a couple of things that connect into what we are talking about.
Last night Ace published the best (and funniest) analysis of bureaucracy I’ve ever read. If you missed it here’s an excerpt. If I still worked in one, and was ready to leave, I believe I would either print this and post it or email it to everybody on my mailing list. Yes, I do on occasion have self-defeating urges.
Heat — pressure, criticism, angry phone calls, Press inquiries — is a vital eternal stimulus to any bureaucracy, as any bureaucracy, left to its own devices, will do what any self-interested guild will do, which is focus entirely on its own interests and focus little or not at all on the public interest.
The priorities of a bureaucracy — not that bullshit you see in its mission statement, which is for public consumption, bait for the rubes — are very similar to the biological imperatives of living organism.
In order of priority, the biological imperatives of the Bureaucratic Collective Life Form are as follows:
1. Protect our phony-baloney jobs.
All organisms’ highest priority is survival. And fold into this other self-interested survival-like goals: raises, comforts.
There’s an important sub-priority here:
1. a. Protect the Phony-Baloney Jobs of Our Fellow Government Workers.
This is crucial. The more the worst government worker can get away with without losing his job, the more the average government worker can get away with without losing his job.
All guilds and unions are devoted to protecting the jobs of their worst performing members.
All bureaucrats have a secret guild interest in permitting the worst, laziest, most useless, most misbehaving government workers to keep their jobs (so long as allowing them to keep their jobs does not threaten other jobs — that is, so long as the bad bureaucrat is not so notoriously awful that he jeopardizes all other Phony Baloney jobs by remaining on the payroll).
In addition, once someone loses their Phony Baloney job at the government, they may begin ratting on those in the bureaucracy also doing their Phony Baloney jobs very poorly; every fired government worker is thus a potential Snitch Threat to other government workers.
For that reason, bureaucrats will work hard to keep other bureaucrats on the payroll, ensuring their continued loyalty to the Guild of Phony Baloney Jobs.
Government workers prioritize imperative 1 and 1.a. to the highest degree possible while still observing imperative 2…
2. Do as little work as possible.
Note that here I’m not actually attacking the bureaucracy for being lazy– most organisms are hard-coded to do as little work as possible. They store up energy for the coming time they’ll have to face off against a brontosaurus or somethin’. “Doing as little work as possible” can also be called, more charitably, a strong impulse towards efficient allocation of the precious resource of stored energy in the form of fat.
But the point is, left to its own devices, any bureaucracy will, of course, do as little as possible while still achieving its most important priority, Protecting Our Phony Baloney Jobs.
Meanwhile, they also have an imperative to increase the scope and grandeur of the jobs they’re doing as poorly as possible:
3. Expand turf, power, and responsibilities.
Note that this conflicts directly with Priority 2, Doing as Little Work as Possible. You would think that someone who wants to Do As Little Work As Possible would shy away from taking on greater power and responsibility. But they don’t.
Higher organisms, while lazy, are also keenly egotistical, and farm social status based on how many other organisms they dominate and boss around every day.