Bureaucrats understand their function, but they do not understand the purpose of their function.
For the bureaucrat ‘I think therefore I am’ becomes ‘I refuse therefore I am’.
It is only necessary to move from market forces to a bureaucracy to understand how little work can be accomplished in a single day.
Thrust your status at the bureaucrat, and latent fires of generations of disadvantage will leap into flame.
Open a transaction with a bureaucrat with the phrase ‘I wonder if you could possibly help me.’ You may give him the opportunity, if only momentarily, of actually contributing to human welfare. He may enjoy the novel experience, and wish to repeat it.
The purpose of bureaucracy is to make the rest of us tear our hair out. Can this be called a proper purpose?
In my dictionary (Everyman’s) the definition of bureaucrat is “a self-important official”.
I think this sums them up nicely (sic) and with that in mind, they do indeed, as Frank says, make the rest of us want to tear our hair out….
Yet a pettyfogging bureaucrat can also be a hero. During one 19th century Turkish invasion of Bulgaria, the Muslim command rang out about a certain town: “Invade and kill all, not spare.” This dire order was received by one minor official, whose days were probably spent in stultifying ledger-work. He decided on his own initiative to quietly move the comma, so that the edict now read: “Invade and kill all not, spare.” The town, needless to say, was thus saved from the scimitar that day.
I think Quentin is harsh on bureaucrats. But he does claim his maxims are intended to provoke. There are plenty of ordinary organizations, particularly big ones, which are the same. They have people who are more concerned about promotion or wages or their secure pensions than about the purposes of the organization. And how about newspapers? They claim the great virtue of truth and public interest yet many are simply concerned with selling newspapers in order to get advertising revenue.
I once suggested to a high executive of a large circulation newspaper that they should run an article criticising Company XYZ for its business practices. The answer: ‘Out of the question, they are one of our biggest advertisers.’