“Bureaucracy is the epoxy that greases the wheels of progress.” Dr. James Boren, Former professor of Political Science and founder of International Association of Professional Bureaucrats.
Nowhere in recent memory has this been more self-evident than in dealing with the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Time and time again the government has proven Dr. Boren’s aphorism by getting in the way of any progress to clean up the mess down there.
For example, early on, the state of Alabama conceived a plan to erect huge booms offshore to protect their coastline, which is about 200 miles long, from the drifting blobs of oil. They searched the world, scouring sources for the massive booms, some weighing tons and as high as twenty feet, to help protect their coastline.
No sooner had Alabama gotten the booms into place then the Coast Guard, who had helped them locate the equipment, mandated that they be moved to protect the Louisiana coast instead.
This led Alabama to devise a backup plan, where they would procure snare booms to catch the oil as soon as it began to wash up on their beaches. Low and behold, another federal bureaucracy snatched that solution away from them. The Fish and Wildlife Administration nixed that plan because they said it would endanger sea turtles that nest on the beaches. Never mind that the entire ecosystem of the turtles is endangered by the encroaching mass of oil blobs invading the Alabama beaches!
So, Alabama state officials, not to be outdone by bureaucratic obstacles, resolved they would try another, less high tech effort to prevent the oil from caking their beaches. They decided to hire 400 workers to patrol the beaches and, by hand, scoop up the oil residue that washed ashore.
So how did that plan turn out, you ask? Well, you probably guessed it: another federal bureaucracy hampered that backup plan to the previous backup plan, which was the backup plan to the original plan aborted by federal bureaucracy. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wouldn’t allow those workers to work more than 20 minutes per hour. They further demanded that the state allow said workers an hour-long break after every 40 minutes of work. OSHA’s requirements had the affect of reducing manual cleanup effort efficiency by more than 60%, with just 40 minutes of work for every three hours on the clock.
As Richard Morris, former Clinton administration advisor has said, “Every agency — each with its own particular bureaucratic agenda — was able to veto each aspect of any plan to fight the spill, with the unintended consequence that nothing stopped the oil…” Rather than facilitating the cleanup, federal bureaucracies have thwarted state and corporate cleanup efforts, as they engage in an apparently uncoordinated tug-of-war jockeying for control and exercising their bureaucratic “epoxy” power. Consequently, the ineptitude hampers cleanup efforts as the assault on our southern shoreline advances.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley characterized the situation by stating that the administration’s “lack of ability has become transparent” in its handling of the oil spill.
Even more disconcerting is the fact that we’ve been enlarging federal bureaucracy at an unprecedented pace over the past two years. The new health care mandate creates over 100 new government agencies and bureaucracies to implement the dictates of that onerous legislation.
The new financial reform package passed by congress creates another 20 new government agencies to beat financial institutions into submission because of the way they implemented the last set of federal regulations congress foisted upon them. Most of the costs of this additional bureaucratic morass will be borne by us. Not just in the form of taxes to cover government cost of implementation and enforcement, but through additional banking fees and charges to cover the anticipated 20% increase in costs to affected financial institutions, which will be passed on to the consumers. That’s us.
Ronald Reagan recognized intuitively as well as empirically how destructive to freedom and liberty bureaucracies can be. He said, “Man is not free unless government is limited…. As government expands, liberty contracts.” And that’s not just for individuals. Just ask the state of Alabama. All of this gives added significance to another of Ronald Reagan’s statements, when he referred to the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” as “the nine most terrifying words in the English language.”
An efficient and effective bureaucracy is critical to the proper function of government in serving citizens. We have obviously far exceeded that. For those who love government and bureaucratic micromanagement of our lives, this is your heyday. For those of us who love freedom and actual solutions, we’re living a nightmare.
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