When I originally decided to write for this page, conveniently titled Propositions—a responsibility that I took very seriously—the idea was for me to write, or propose, content that was in parallel with and equidistant to what was in the magazine or related cultural activities. It all started out just fine, but soon I reacted and realized that it was not good to be so narrow; ignoring social issues, a human responsibility, was an unfortunate waste of time and paper.
It is not for lack of inspiration or ideas—or that my muse has suddenly run off—that this time, I am devoting the page set aside for my editorial to quote well-known figures about the origins, meaning and criticism of bureaucracy. I would like to clarify that this is not a coincidence, nor is it due to ill will; it is more a question of being obligatory, a duty.
The German encyclopedia writer Baron Von Grimm wrote in a letter dated July 15, 1765, “The real spirit of the laws in France is that bureaucracy of which the late Monsieur de Gournay used to complain so greatly; here the offices, clerks, secretaries, inspectors, and intendants are not appointed to benefit the public interest, indeed the public interest appears to have been established so that offices might exist.”
However, the German sociologist, philosopher and economist Max Weber, in one of his sociological analyses about bureaucracy, said that the system has more positive connotations, that it is a more rational form of organization and administration compared to other alternatives, and he praised bureaucracy so much (precision, swiftness, clarity, knowledge about the matter, continuity, reserve, unity, strict subordination, less friction and fewer material and personal costs) that, in my opinion, the result of his analysis seems more fallible than the prophecies of Nostradamus or Martin Luther.
I think that today, if he were to prescribe bureaucracy as a medication, Weber would be obliged to describe its side effects: rigidity, inertia, treating human beings as impersonal objects; destruction of personal growth; promoting conformism; acting against change, and hindering productivity, growth and evolution.
“Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines”— Bene Gesserit, in the novel Dune by Frank Herbert.
The symptoms of bureaucracy are as clear and evident as those of a common flu or allergies, except that the first two are passing illnesses that can get better on their own; bureaucracy must be corrected, expurgated. The disease of “bureaumania,” was described by Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay before the triumph of the French Revolution: “We have an illness in France which bids fair to play havoc with us; this illness is called bureaumania.”
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