How do bureaucracies control their hosts?

  • They control by measuring.
  • They control by reporting.
  • They control by assessing.
  • They control by expenditure beyond their limits.

A bureaucracy which reports uncontrolled success is a bureaucracy which writes its own suicide note.  Bureaucracies, upon birth, have a lusty self-preservation instinct.  They have become, in fact, a massive and lucrative career.  People bop all around State and Federal bureaucratic roles at the various Capitals.  Bureaucracy is a career, a livelihood, which has its own language, insiders and culture.  It has elevated itself far above the actual “doing of things,” which is considered a blue-collar, factory-worker sort of thing, like neurosurgery is to the HHS – just a job category.

Reporting things that come with their own press releases is job security for the bureaucrat.  When one is grasping onto a lower rung of the ladder, one must haul one’s self up by showing that everything is a mess, and some diligent oversight and control is needed.  After you have been on the job for a while, you begin preening your resume and reporting on how good things are.  Nice time to get out and get promoted.

Note that there is no need in reality to detect things that are failing, or change them to succeed – in fact, it’s perilous.  One can even blame the very agency one works for, if it is shielded in proper terminology.

You can angrily complain that “IN SPITE OF TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS SPENT ON HUNGER IN AMERICA, CHILDREN STILL GO TO BED HUNGRY.”  You can even do so in an event staged for media.  The only criteria is that you must be angrily self-righteous.

You do not need to state that you personally have drawn a million dollars over the course of a career, employed in the bureaucracy that claims to be addressing this very problem.  You do not need to state that you oversee an office full of bureaucrats who have drawn $100 Million in salary and benefits to address this problem.  All you need to do, is get your mug on the evening news, and state – “We’re going to TURN THIS AROUND!”

Then drive your Lexus or Beemer home to Alexandria or the Virginia ‘burbs.

The media thrives on cartoon logic.  Superheros never seem to get bored.  There is always someone nefarious to battle, some Evil Kingpin – some well-funded Doctor Evil or Vast Empire of Evil – and minions, there have to be a lot of minions.

Without the constant reminder about cartoonish good-and-evil, people might realize that conflict and disagreement between two sides might be complex, and taking an opinion is making a value judgment.  Bureaucracies are skilled at driving people to snap up prepackaged value judgments.  It is no coincidence that our society is deeply mistrustful of American physicians – making mistakes, over-diagnosing and over-prescribing, doing tests for simple personal greed.  When you ask them about their own personal physician, they are positive and sympathetic.  Who’s selling the Dr. Evil pitch?  Who’s going for absolute power and control over American Medicine?

The next challenge is ASSESSING – That’s next.