Saturday, May 22, 2010


Surely one of the finest essays ever written about the deadening effects of bureaucracy was written one hundred and fifty years ago by an Englishman by the name of Richard Simmons.

The entire essay is uncannily pertinent to the American dilemma today. With a few changes to make it entirely contemporaneous, it is applicable word for word to the increasing power of bureaucracy over the lives of Americans.

Some pertinent quotes:

"The men of a bureaucracy...set [themselves] up as critics and guides of life, and therefore [see themselves] fit to direct the life of the nation."

"A bureaucracy is not fulfilled till we add the pedantic element of a pretence to direct our life, to know what is best for us, to measure out our labor, to superintend our studies, to prescribe our opinions, to make itself answerable for us, to put us to bed, tuck us up, put on our nightcap, and administer our gruel."

"The bureaucracy of lawyers is the universal pattern of all...The civil law takes the entire man under its tutelage, and sets itself up as the mundane providence...Never was this exhibited more clearly than in the Convention of French pettifoggers, where Robespierre declared, "We will have an order of things where all base and cruel passions are chained up, and all beneficial and generous passions aroused, by the laws; and where St, Just pretended to change, by a violent dose of legislation, the morals and manners of a nation, and to reform the human heart." (Italics mine.)

"Suffice it to say, that the great characteristic of true bureaucracy is the intimate conviction of its conductors that the provisions made by them adequately cover the whole area of human life and thought, or at least the most important parts of it; therefore that all other provision are superfluous, and, if contrary to their ideas, noxious, and as such, to be done away with as soon as possible, so as to leave a clear field for the regenerating action of their beneficent influence. Hence the intolerant, monopolizing, intrusive character of all true bureaucracy..."

"But as the state increases, and most in the classes that require to be administered, administration must increase likewise; the number of employees must wax greater and greater, they must be organized, and with their organisation the classification of the people whose affairs they have to administer must keep pace."

Simpson has wise and powerful insights into the shortcomings of a universal, government controlled educational system; the dangers posed to a democracy by bureaucratic control, and the solution to bloated bureaucracies; one of which is namely, to keep it small.

But there is much else to glean from his amazingly prescient essay, linked here:

Brilliant; absolutely brilliant!

No comments:

Post a Comment