This post was derived from an article at Misses Institutue.
Harry E. Teasley
Teasley has spent his life confronting bureaucracies. His business career was spent at The Coca-Cola Company as head of various lines of business. His nickname was “Thor” for his willingness to confront the evils of bureaucracy and its mindless agents.
Gone are the days when both the people and their government live within their means. With 44 percent of households receiving some form of federal subsidy and the majority of Americans not paying any taxes, our country is now more the land of entitlements than the land of opportunity (Boskin, 2011; Heritage Foundation Report, 2011).
With the current challenge of reducing the runaway government spending and an entitlement mentality by citizens, it is quite possible to trim the budget by reining in our bureaucracy. Thomas Sowell suggested that to do so, we must further examine and challenge the giant economic leviathan of our government bureaucracy.
Bureaucracies fail or simply don’t do what they were designed to do. Sowell (1995, p. 257) reveals part of this problem in The Vision of the Anointed:
Even worse, bureaucrats and their supporters are loath to admit when their programs have harmful consequences and are inclined to double-down on a failing policy once it has proven its worthlessness.
Bureaucracy: A Root Evil
In order to understand the foundation of America’s morass, we must examine bureaucracy. At the root of this growing evil is the very nature of bureaucracy, especially political bureaucracy. French economist Frédéric Bastiat offered an early warning in 1850 that laws, institutions, and acts — the stuff of political bureaucracy — produce economic effects that can be seen immediately, but that other, unforeseen effects happen much later.
Free-market economists have challenged government bureaucracies since the 1920s. Ludwig von Mises, in the preface to his 1944 edition of Bureaucracy, asked if Americans should give away their individual freedom and private initiative for the guardianship of the bureaucratic state. He warned,
Rules of Bureaucracy
Rule #1: Maintain the problem at all costs! The problem is the basis of power, perks, privileges, and security.
Problems, not solutions, are the basis of bureaucratic power, perks, privilege, and political security. In politics, the tougher the problem appears, the more resources must be devoted to it. Political careers have been made by bureaucrats promising to fix problems. Bureaucrats feign trying to fix problems while usually making them worse. This is because maintaining the problem creates constituent dependency and allows the bureaucrat to show tangible evidence that he or she is working hard for constituents and their cause. It also allows bureaucrats to spend lavishly and, seemingly endlessly, on new government programs and employees.
Rule #2: Use crisis, and perceived crisis, to increase your power and control.
Rule 2a. Force 11th-hour decisions, threaten the loss of options and opportunities, and limit the opposition’s opportunity to review and critique.
Rule #3: If there are not enough crises, manufacture them, even from nature, where none exist.
Rule #4: Control the flow and release of information while feigning openness.
It is telling that the term public relations is not used in government bureaucracies. This is not to say that governmental bureaucracies don’t engage in public influence; it’s just that they don’t want to be seen as doing so. Ironically, they spend huge sums of money at all levels trying to persuade the public and media that they aren’t persuading them. Instead you have “public affairs,” “public information,” “public communication & liaison,” and “public engagement” to duck public criticism of their information-control efforts. The bottom line is that government bureaucracies don’t want people to think that they are controlling the spin and flow of information, so the appearance is all about giving the public the information they want and need and making it sound benign, instead of persuasive.
Rule 4a: Deny, delay, obfuscate, spin, and lie.
Rule #5: Maximize public-relations exposure by creating a cover story that appeals to the universal need to help people.
Government bureaucracy is honed on populist rhetoric. Bureaucrats have become skilled at using the “helping the people” angle when making speeches, and especially when dealing with the press. It is a variation of the “people angle” taught in media relations training programs as the best method to attract media attention and promotion. Almost any government program, no matter what its cost in money or personal liberties, can be sold through the media by claiming it is for (1) the children, (2) the environment, (3) the elderly, (4) the poor, (5) the homeless, (6) the national defense, (7) homeland security, or (8) the sick.
Rule #6: Create vested support groups by distributing concentrated benefits and/or entitlements to these special interests, while distributing the costs broadly to one’s political opponents.
Rule #7: Demonize the truth tellers who have the temerity to say, “The emperor has no clothes.”
Rule 7a: Accuse the truth teller of one’s own defects, deficiencies, crimes, and misdemeanors.