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Posted by on Feb 10, 2010 in Economy, Politics | 12 comments

Privatized Bureaucracy is Still Bureaucracy (Guest Voice)

tinadupuy180.jpgPrivatized Bureaucracy is Still Bureaucracy
by Tina Dupuy

The knee-jerk “government is bad” argument against health care reform, the jobs bill or banking regulations is always “it creates more bureaucracy.” This is mainly from Republicans who want to be called lawmakers. Yes, there are people working in the government – gladly cashing their government paychecks – whose default is always that the government is incompetent. And admitting government can’t do anything right actually, sometimes, GETS them elected.

Which is like hiring a mechanic who prefers not do anything that requires wearing overalls, using power tools or knowing what a car looks like – but he knows a guy…

Bureaucracy is always bad, you see. It’s slow, deliberate and full of well – bureaucrats. People who thrive on rules and checks and balances. A bunch of hall monitors. Form filling bed-wetters.

The alternative to bureaucracy? Privatization. Yes, the private sector is the cure-all for all the cumbersome, slow-witted, pencil pushers in the government. The sexy private sector is full of innovators we’re told – entrepreneurs. People who are moving and shaking and forward thinking. The private sector is shaping our future.

So the next time you have to call AT&T about a mistake on your bill, or your Internet going out or why your cell phone works perfectly on the Inca Trail but not in your living room, think of how much better the private sector works. Yes, after you’ve been transferred to the fifth person who also isn’t accountable, knowledgeable or responsible for how poorly the mega-corporation is performing think of how horrible it would be to have more /bureaucracy./ And when they tell you the call is being recorded for quality assurance because after an hour of being transferred to three continents you still need assurance, smile inside that this is a preferred alternative to your tax dollars being wasted.

And to anyone who’s ever been harassed for years by a billing department mix-up only to have the charge show up as unpaid on your credit report take heed, at least it’s not the anal-retentive IRS with all that red tape. And when Capitol One just arbitrarily decides your APR should be north of 33%, feel pride that at least there’s not a government bureaucrat between you and your banker. And the next time Bank of America charges you unlimited overdraft fees and you’re left with absolutely no recourse look up at that shiny red, white and blue sign and feel the glow of patriotism because it’s not the dreaded government interfering in your life.

From a consumer vantage point – privatized bureaucracy seems an awful lot like regular bureaucracy.

Waiting in line at the court house to clear up a parking ticket is the same hour spent in line at your cable company to switch out your defective DVR. All tedious, de-humanizing, time-sucking authoritative bodies are the same to their victims. The only difference is politics. No wonder people are afraid of the government taking over Medicare (psst it’s a government program). It’s one giant soulless entity being confused with another giant soulless entity. The right would have us believe it’s the government that’s the problem and the left would have us believe it’s the unregulated corporations. A privatized world is no utopia – not anymore than a government run one is. A healthy pool of both is the best.

The difference between the government and the private sector is you don’t have people pulling a paycheck in the private sector championing for more money and power to go into the government.

The only reason the government is preferable is because it doesn’t turn a profit. Its motives are not to make money and it is at least successful at that. Plus in the government you and I are the shareholders. We have ownership of our government, ideally. We have a say. It’s for the people, by the people. If bureaucracy is an inevitable evil, a symptom of civilization, between the private sector and government, between the DMV or Etna, I’ll choose indifference over monetization.

Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com

  • Leonidas

    Well one thing about private bureaucracy thats different, tax money doesn’t pay the salaries of the bureaucrats.

  • ProfElwood

    Fine, I’ll explain the obvious.

    All large organizations have a bureaucracy behind them. All bureaucracies start of pursuing a purpose, but eventually become far more concerned about self-preservation. The question then becomes: how do you bring it back around.

    Private and non-profit companies reorganize or are abandoned for a competitor.
    Churches go through revivals.
    Governments go through revolutions.

    That last one takes the longest to get to, and is a lot more …. messy.

  • Leonidas

    Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
    — Laurence J. Peter

    Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
    — Milton Friedman

    “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”
    –Franz Kafka

    “Mystical references to society and its programs to help may warm the hearts of the gullible but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats.”
    –Thomas Sowell

  • Silhouette

    Bingo. Well-written article. The stark truth always shines.

    • Leonidas

      I thought that was the emperor’s new clothes that was shining. =P

  • rudi

    Yes tax payers don’t pay for $100 million bonuses or $1.22 million bank office decorations.

  • New Cat

    Good article.

    The only thing that makes private bureaucracy better, is with the private corporation we can usually find another company with whom to do business. We are pretty much stuck with the Government.

    • ProfElwood

      There is one worse than both, of course: the government protected monopoly (or oligarchy). That gives us the worst of both worlds: no competition, no transparency, less accountability, and no checks on power. Think Fed and GSEs.

  • dduck12

    Good rant. Fortunately there are some gov., bus., charitable and religious bureaucracies that are well run. They should be judged individually and not automatically vilified according to the latest populist/pundit flavor of the day. However, besides NASA and Google, I can’t think of any others. (The better government ones probably have a low profile.)

  • $199537

    Dupuy is comparing government bureaucracies to poorly run companies, which is a false comparison. The difference between private bureaucracies and public ones is if you don’t like the service from a private company you can go to a different and better one. The existence of Fedex makes UPS a better company and vice versa.

    The exceptions are companies that are near-monopolies such as the local cable company, although I have to say when I was unhappy with cable I switched to satellite and the problem was solved. To her complaints about credit card rates I would tell Dupuy to not buy things she can’t afford, keep an emergency fund and pay off her balance every month, that’s budgeting 101.

  • DLS

    “To her complaints about credit card rates”

    We see in this the beginnings of what’s being revealed — not government replacing business, but bashing business and government not only as a replacement of the private sector but as a parent.

    “From Umpire to Big Brother”

  • RobertInSF

    This is a completely over-the-top statement without basis in fact or reality: “Bureaucracy is always bad, you see. It’s slow, deliberate and full of well – bureaucrats. People who thrive on rules and checks and balances. A bunch of hall monitors. Form filling bed-wetters.”

    Bureaucracy is form of management in which rules and processes are established and followed, without personalities getting in the way. It’s a way of bringing predictability and stability to operations.

    You are using the term in the pejorative fashion, forgetting that without some form of bureaucracy, every time you tried to get something done, it could/would be different in how to get it done, who gets it done, when it gets done, and what it takes to get done…

    Government bureaucracies are supposed to be open/transparent. Try getting that from ATT, Comcast, or any other private/for profit company. They keep their processes sealed tight, so they can use that nature to delay/prevent your credit from being returned when you have overpaid because you didn’t know the due date versus the bill date from the posted date, etc.

    Certain services should be the responsibility of the governement (local, state, federal) as this scope brings a standardization for the entire community, regardless of status in the community.

    And as for “switching” bureaucracies by changing business providers, good luck in some of your monopolies that have formed in function, if not in the legal sense. At least with government, you can vote and lobby, as it were, to your representative.

    You want to give up what power you do have for no power essentially, since bigger businesses don’t care so much about the complaints of the small customer. I mean, we aren’t talking about the local dry cleaners or flower shop giving bad service. There are only so many providers of farming now in the US, and only so many phone/internet/electricity/banks….

    Of course corruption happens in government and business. That’s human nature. At least with government, the laws, rules, and people are supposed to be transparent by design, not hidden and behind-the-scenes by their very nature in maximizing profit….

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