Sunday, September 19, 2021
HomeRecommendedDoing What They Were Tasked to Do

Doing What They Were Tasked to Do

Bureacracy- by Harald GrovenLike many cities, Peoria, Illinois broadcasts its city council meetings live on the local public radio station. Earlier this week I was listening to a portion of that broadcast. The council was debating approval of sign variances to allow businesses to put up signs that may or may not have been within the guidelines of the city’s sign ordinances. Pretty dry stuff, but part of the day to day operation of a city.

Specifically, one item on the variance list was replacing an existing sign (with an existing variance) with a smaller proposed new sign. Obviously the new sign was closer to what the ordinance allowed than the existing structure so one of the city councilmen asked why it wasn’t approved by the city staff without taking up the council’s time. The answer was telling:

“They’re doing what they were tasked to do and staying within the rules they were given.”

It was a good answer, but it points to one of the problems with government bureaucracies everywhere. Put another way, staff isn’t allowed to use common sense or best judgement. They have to follow the rules no matter how little sense the rules make for the situation at hand. They’re doing their job the way they were told to do it and they’re not allowed to vary from the script. When the person at the zoning office doesn’t approve your sign (or the DMV worker sends you away because you didn’t have the proper stamp on a form) they’re not bad people, they’re just doing their job.

This is but the tiniest example and one of the least consequential of bureaucracies, but it is indicative of what are known as bureaucratic pathologies. A social studies help site put it in simple terms and listed 5 classifications of pathologies: red tape, conflict, duplication, imperialism, and waste. My example clearly falls into the “red tape” category, which is simply the rules and procedures that you HAVE to follow to get anything done. I’d argue that this is the most insidious of the pathologies. For example, when it comes to government healthcare, it is the red tape that will kill people. Some government bureaucrat will compare the procedure that your doctor ordered to his list of approved procedures and tell you if you can have it. If the procedure isn’t approved you won’t get it. If it’s approved, but only enough money allocated for 250/year and you’re number 1500, you’ll go on the waiting list for a couple of years. There’s nothing the poor bureaucrat can change, after all he is only doing what he is tasked to do.

Brian Hibbert
Midwestern conservative, Precinct Committeeman, county GOP Executive Committee secretary and currently a candidate for the Board of Trustees at Illinois Central College. It's amazing what can happen if you just show up and put in a little effort.

3 COMMENTS

Leave a Reply

3 COMMENTS

  1. Good observation & analysis, Brian.

    Bureaucracies also arise in any large non-govermental organization as well. Obviously, the difference is that in a capitalistic, free-enterprise economy (as opposed to a crony-capitalism economy, and yes, I’m looking at you GE), the abhorrence of red ink and the crush of competition creatively destroys a dysfunctional bureaucracy.

    Unlike the city staff in your example, a well functioning bureaucracy tends to delegate decision-making to the lowest level possible, in order to maximize efficiency and profit. (As an aside, I suspect the councilman who asked the question comes from a business background, not a government one.) A business, even a multi-national one, will lose money with the attitude that ‘they’re doing what they were tasked to do and staying within the rules they were given’, especially if the rules/tasks create inefficiency and dissatisfied customers.

    None of this applies to a government monopoly, where managers are expected to expend all funds allocated at the risk of receiving smaller allotments if money remains unspent at the end of the fiscal year. Efficiency, profit, customer satisfaction; not so much. After all, where else are you going to go for license plates if you’re dissatisfied with the DMV? Carried to it’s logical conclusion under Obamacare, or it’s single-payer successor, where will you go to have your gallbladder removed NOW, not sometime next year?

    • Where will you go to have your gall bladder removed now? Oh don’t be silly with all those right wing scare tactics. If you are a member of the masses, you will dutifully stand in line waiting a year, two years, for an iffy surgery with the assurance you are doing your citizen duty for the State. If you are a high rannking government official, or independently wealthy (interesting how the two sort of become the same thing in a socialist state) you will jet off to a private clinic in Switzerland or the Caribbean where you will receive excellent prompt care by surgeons recruited from around the world, and recover well in gorgeous surroundings. After all, *you are special* and the progressive vision can only continue on to Utopia with people like you in charge. Just ask Ceaucescu, Brezhnev, Castro and Chavez – works for them!

  1. Good observation & analysis, Brian.

    Bureaucracies also arise in any large non-govermental organization as well. Obviously, the difference is that in a capitalistic, free-enterprise economy (as opposed to a crony-capitalism economy, and yes, I’m looking at you GE), the abhorrence of red ink and the crush of competition creatively destroys a dysfunctional bureaucracy.

    Unlike the city staff in your example, a well functioning bureaucracy tends to delegate decision-making to the lowest level possible, in order to maximize efficiency and profit. (As an aside, I suspect the councilman who asked the question comes from a business background, not a government one.) A business, even a multi-national one, will lose money with the attitude that ‘they’re doing what they were tasked to do and staying within the rules they were given’, especially if the rules/tasks create inefficiency and dissatisfied customers.

    None of this applies to a government monopoly, where managers are expected to expend all funds allocated at the risk of receiving smaller allotments if money remains unspent at the end of the fiscal year. Efficiency, profit, customer satisfaction; not so much. After all, where else are you going to go for license plates if you’re dissatisfied with the DMV? Carried to it’s logical conclusion under Obamacare, or it’s single-payer successor, where will you go to have your gallbladder removed NOW, not sometime next year?

    • Where will you go to have your gall bladder removed now? Oh don’t be silly with all those right wing scare tactics. If you are a member of the masses, you will dutifully stand in line waiting a year, two years, for an iffy surgery with the assurance you are doing your citizen duty for the State. If you are a high rannking government official, or independently wealthy (interesting how the two sort of become the same thing in a socialist state) you will jet off to a private clinic in Switzerland or the Caribbean where you will receive excellent prompt care by surgeons recruited from around the world, and recover well in gorgeous surroundings. After all, *you are special* and the progressive vision can only continue on to Utopia with people like you in charge. Just ask Ceaucescu, Brezhnev, Castro and Chavez – works for them!

Must Read