The Administrative Parasite or the Bureaucratic Supernova

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Although the chart is from a post by Charles Hugh Smith from 2010, I saw this for the first time on Twitter, yesterday, and I think it captures an important dynamic:

lifecycle-bureaucracy

 

In summary, a new agency, department, office, program, or whatever you want to call it starts off with enthusiasm at some new mission (albeit one probably being grabbed from the private sector).  Early returns in services are relatively good, because employees are enthusiastic and not yet dug in.  It still seems like something special.

As things go on, though, the original mission becomes commonplace, and the organization looks to expand, but eventually finds its limit.  Meanwhile, the amount of effort and number of employees devoted to the institution itself grows.

Eventually, the budget hits its limits, and cuts might even become necessary.  But the administration is habit and the employees are dug in, so rather than downsize those, the organization concludes it simply can’t serve as many people or do as much of whatever it was doing, until it reaches the point that there’s hardly any mission left.

Smith emphasizes:

Although it seems “impossible” in an era where the Federal Reserve just conjures up $1 trillion and the Federal governments sells $1.3 trillion in bonds every year to fund its ballooning deficit, bureaucracies can and will implode.

And this paragraph from a related post Smith wrote in 2011 should sound very familiar to the Rhode Island ear:

Real reform would mean powerful constituencies would have to take real reductions in staffing, power, benefits and in their share of the national income. Rather than reveal this double-bind–reform is impossible but the Status Quo is unsustainable–the institution deploys its gargantuan resources to laying down a smoke-screen of bogus “reforms,” distracting sideshows and ginned-up statistics to “prove” that “we’re really changing things around here, yes-siree, and things are getting better and better, every day and in every way.”

Sadly, folks, it’s going to be up to us to defuse the pressure before the star explodes.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    It is always well to remember that 21-23% (varies by state) of paid employees work for the government. This includes , police, teachers, military, etc.

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