July 30, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)

The Anatomy of a Bureaucrat

A bureaucrat is a Democrat with a job that a Republican wants.

Author unknown

The vast majority of professional bureaucrats are pretty decent people. Most do not beat their wives, and they are good to their children. Their houses are neat and they are considered a credit to their community.

Unlike some people, they are not consumed with ambition. They have little desire to rise to any pinnacles. Few want to be the president of anything, except perhaps the local school board. They are content to move up the corporate or government ladder at a steady pace. When they retire, the eulogy often contains the sentence "he was a fine human being." (If anyone says that after my death, I will return from the dead and plug up his large intestine.) Most take pride in rarely missing a day of work and, baring accidents or traffic jams, are almost always on time. In short, the bureaucrat is the person who keeps the wheels of government and business turning at a steady, even, slow number of revolutions per minute.

And those revolutions are the only ones that he is interested in. Revolutions that mean change make his head ache and his stomach churn. It needn't be a revolution; the word "change" strikes fear in his heart.

The bureaucrats who are annoying, those who wield power over those who need their services, are in the minority. But they are noticed. Most bureaucrats are content to do their job as it is written in their job description. They are meticulous about that and on the rare occasion when they are called upon to do something extra, may be heard to reply, "That's not my job."

While most people think of government when the word bureaucracy is mentioned, the basic mechanism operates in all organization based on some kind of a hierarchy. In such a system, only those at the top are allowed to be creative. Everyone else follows orders and devotes all of his efforts toward keeping the system running smoothly. No one questions whether the system should even exist at all. Would a member of the Tea Board dare to question whether a tea board is needed in the U.S. government. To do so means the end of the job, the end of the paycheck, the end of the home, peace and quiet, and sometimes, the end of life; at least life before retirement.

If I had to pick an institution which represents bureaucracy, it would be any branch of the military. Strangely enough, the people who claim to be enemies of bureaucracy often choose a military model for their organization.

Disclaimer: Every time that I classify people, I must state that while I have described people accurately, there are rare exceptions; people who think and are creative, even in the most hide-bound bureaucracy.

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