: what is bureaucracy?

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: what is bureaucracy?

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Bureaucracy can also be an insult.

To describe a government, business or an organisation that makes doing anything more difficult than its needs to be.

“The workplace is bureaucratic… I need 2 different forms and 5 signatures to get a new pen. And you can only get new stationary on certain days.”

Bureaucracy is a term that confuses most people, myself included.

I think the best way to envision what a bureaucracy is is to imagine an organization (let’s say the government). We elect certain members of the government (elected officials) to draft laws (Congress), to execute those laws (President), and to make sure those laws are just (many judges).

Now let’s examine the executive branch specifically. The President is *generally* a smart guy, capable of getting a lot done. But to manage a whole country by himself? That’s a lot to ask of him. That’s where the Federal Bureaucracy comes into place (keep in mind this is just an example of a bureaucracy).

Back in the olden days, Washington realized he couldn’t do all of it by himself, and created what was known as the Cabinet. This was the “birth” of the Federal Bureaucracy in the U.S. The cabinet was filled with expert officials that advised the president on many matters, and they each commanded their own department (you’ve probably heard of the Department of Treasury, the FBI, etc.). These departments were capable of executing the laws Congress passed, enforcing their own set of rules, and even regulating themselves (see some of the problems that can arise from this?). The departments continued to grow and expand over the years and have led to the 15 established departments we see today.

Like I said, however, this is just an example of bureaucracy in the government within the executive branch itself. Any big organization probably uses some form of bureaucracy. As long as divisions are created and work is compartmentalized and regulated by people who are not elected to do so, a bureaucracy is probably right in front of you.

Imagine you want to open a program on your computer. You double click on the program, and it pops open. You don’t know how the computer did it, but you made the decision to open it, and then got the correct result.

But your computer did a lot of work behind the scenes. Circuits and programs had to determine whether you clicked once or twice, which program you clicked on, whether you had permission to open it, what programs on the computer were needed to open it, how much memory and processing power to give the program, which pixels to activate on your screen, what color to make them, whether any sound should play, which speakers to use etc. etc. etc.

The computer didn’t make the decision to open the program- you did. But once it got its instructions, it made a million smaller decisions that needed to be resolved to give you the result you wanted. That’s essentially a bureaucracy.

When the President says he wants to drop a bomb on a target, he gives the order, but he doesn’t know how to do anything else. He tells his secretary of defense, who tells pentagon officials, who determine which branch of the military is responsible, any legal issues, and who in the military they need to talk to, which army/division/regiment/unit is best able to carry out the mission, what bomb to use, what delivery system to use, when to carry out the attack, etc. etc. etc.

Bureaucracy is ideally a non-political system that takes a broad input and solves the other million smaller problems involved in the process to arrive at the desired outcome based on a pre-arranged set of rules.