Why It’s Who You Know and Not What

What I want–what authoritarianism just is–is a government in which authority is delegated. That’s so straightforward that, in a way, it’s hard to understand what I mean so let’s compare it to our current system of government: bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is the delegation of the tasksrather than the delegation of authority itself. That’s why whenever I encounter bureaucracy it is something in my way and never what gets things done for me. That is why the bureaucracy was made. It’s design is to diffuse authority; to dehumanize power and mask responsibility.

Bureaucracy isn’t why you have to stand in line. That’s authority imposing its power whether anyone under that responsibility likes it or not, and even though we don’t think about it very much because of the mask and diffusion.

Bureaucracy is why, when you get to the front, the woman sitting there can’t solve your problem…unless she is a friend. Then she feels free to resort to her authority.

9 thoughts on “Why It’s Who You Know and Not What

  1. Cane,

    After reading your post, it occurred to me that bureaucracy is the uncoupling of the direct link between authority and responsibility. Those with authority are detached from the responsibility, and those having responsibility (for getting tasks done) are limited in their authority.

    The obvious drawback about bureaucracy is that things don’t happen very quickly. But OTOH, in some cases this could be a good thing.

    Bureaucracies are usually employed in situations where large numbers of beneficiaries are involved, and legal fraud or deception may be commonplace. But as your OP hints, the deception may very well occurr within the bureaucratic structure of authority.

    My biggest beef about bureaucracy is the inefficiency and waste.

    At any rate, it is clear that a bureaucracy is intended to protect the authority, control the employees, and limit the beneficiaries. As such, it’s an effective tool for exercising judicial power.

  2. After reading your post, it occurred to me that bureaucracy is the uncoupling of the direct link between authority and responsibility. Those with authority are detached from the responsibility, and those having responsibility (for getting tasks done) are limited in their authority.

    You got it.

  3. A good analysis. One thing to add is that complex bureaucracies make it easier to shift or divert blame- surely no accident in a system which is designed to make it easy to replace leaders.

  4. It is also useful to benefit your friends, and make large portions of the middle class dependent on you. Keeps the wheels greased

  5. @ Cane

    That is why the bureaucracy was made. It’s design is to diffuse authority; to dehumanize power and mask responsibility.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while in terms of national security.

    Between 1980 and 2005, Islamic terrorists caused 94% of terror fatalities in the US, according to the FBI. The vast majority of those Islamic terrorists were foreign born. A few were children of foreign born Muslims (i.e., the San Bernardino, & Orlando terrorist attacks).

    That means that our government has been importing Islamic terrorists (and/or their parents) for decades.

    But, whom do we hold accountable for that? No one knows. Because no one person is individually responsible for importing any one of those terrorists.

    How does one fix a problem for which no one is individually responsible?

  6. @Oscar

    Exactly. Democracy is always going to cause this problem because who is responsible in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? The people, that’s who. The answer we’re told is that now is the time for the people vote out the guy who made the bad decision, but they can’t hold themselves accountable. This is an injustice. To hold the guy responsible is unjust because he was following his orders from the people. And what are the people going to do to hold his boss–the people–responsible for their error in judgment? Execute the people? Fire the people? And what business do the people have choosing a new person to be accountable? They’ve already proved they have poor judgment.

    The other option (still unjust because accountability is not held) is to make more laws in the hopes of dissuading future decision-makers from doing their duty in a way the people don’t like. These are the bricks of a bureaucracy.

  7. @ Cane

    I think any large organization suffers from the same problem. The military certainly does, and it’s the most authoritarian organization we have.

    Even ancient kingdoms had enormous bureaucracies. Ancient Persian and Chinese bureaucracies were epic. Kings are just as prone to hoard authority and diffuse responsibility as every other human being.

  8. Cane:

    The answer we’re told is that now is the time for the people vote out the guy who made the bad decision, but they can’t hold themselves accountable.

    To desire power without the corresponding responsibilities is a sin. It’s pity we don’t have a good name to call it for what it is.

    The end of mass suffrage is to enmesh everyone in that sin.

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