Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Bureaucracy Post I Promised

All references are from James Q. Wilson's "The Rise of the Bureaucratic State" from Peter Woll's American Government Readings and Cases 15th edition.

A couple of reasons why bureaucracies need restructuring:

1. They are bloated-

"Bureaucracies grow due to Parkinson's Law (and William A. Niskanen's assertion that) bureaucrats maximize the total budget of their bureau during their tenure."

Imagine the Department of Defense, and try (just you try!) to argue that every single expenditure (or even a high percentage) have been justified in both price and practice.

Similarly, these institutions can employ too many people.

"The increase in the size of the executive branch of the federal government at this time was almost entirely the result of the increase in the size of the Post Office. From 1816 to 1861, federal civilian employment in the executive branch increased nearly eightfold (from 4,837 to 36,672), but 86% of this growth was the result of additions to the postal service. In New York alone, by 1894 there were nearly 3,000 postal employees, the same number required to run the entire federal government at the beginning of that century".

While this may have been in response to public need in the 19th century, the 21st century has internet access and privately run postal services like UPS, FedEx, and DHL. Do we really need the Post Office in its current representation?

2. The Military-Industrial Complex is lacking in oversight.

"The argument for the existence of an autonomous, bureaucratically led military-industrial complex is supported primarily by events since 1950. Not only has the U.S. assumed worldwide commitments that necessitate a larger military establishment, but the advent of new, high-technology weapons has created a vast indutrial machine with an interest in sustaining a high level of military expenditures. The development and purchase of weapons is sometimes made in a wasteful, even irrational, manner. And the allocation of funds among the several armed services is often dictated as much by inter-service rivalry as by strategic or political decisions."

This institution is the cause for most of my bureaucratic concern due to its apparent lack of control by ALL branches of government, and its lack of a humane product. Don't all bureaucracies have some sense of secrecy and elitism? Yes, by their nature agricultural, aerospace, and housing committees are going to set standards, regulate expenditures and dominate policy making usually with little public knowledge (on a mass media scale).

The problem is, the Future Farmers of America aren't going to send me to North Korea to get nuked in an effort to demonstrate their need for funding in soy research. The Defense Department might send me their as part of an agenda to promote the need for a missile defense system though. Without proper oversight, we send troops to foreign countries on bad intelligence. Shouldn't Americans die serving their country, not a bureaucratic agenda?

3. Agencies once created become next to impossible to change or dissolve.

"Most of the major new social programs of the United States were initially adopted by broad coalitions appealing to general standards of justice. But when a program supplies particular benefits to an existing or newly created interest, public or private, it creates a set of political relationships that make exceptionally difficult further alteration of that program by coalitions of the majority. What was created in the name of the common good is sustained in the name of the particular interest."

Think of the last institution to be forced to change against its will: FEMA. Michael Brown was forced out after months of slicing through government red tape. It was a national disaster that became a national embarrassment, and change still came slowly.

Bureaucracies are necessary. But we should not take a laissez-faire attitude towards them. It is important to make them at least somewhat responsive to the needs of the people. Otherwise the spectrum of the U.S. government will look less democratic and more oligarchical.