What is a Bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is sometimes called the fourth branch of government. It is a form of anti-democracy where government officials usually appointed for life and nearly impossible to fire or remove are the ones who make important decisions including writing regulations that govern different industries or setting fines or determining who gets a permit or license and who does not. They are a modern day merger of all three branches of government often making the law, executing the law and judging the law. Some of the most infamous of these bureaus are the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Bureaucracy Equals Corruption
These agencies have immense power. They have easily corrupt workers or officials who often are former employees of the same companies they are supposed to regulate and end up blocking entry into markets that these large companies are in therefore strangling competition and causing oligopolies such as that seen in the big pharma world. Because success is not determined in a bureaucracy by how much in demand a product is but more who knows who, it becomes an extremely inefficient and less effective form of doing business often with failure being rewarded and success being punished. Laws are also often overlooked or changed on a whim causing great uncertainty in the private world and hurting the ability to prepare for the long term. If a license or grazing rights can be revoked in a moment’s notice with no real due process, then how can any sort of long term plans be made. They also hurt the general citizenry by allowing the backward economics of monopoly begin to take over instead of that of perfect competition.
The Backward Economics of a Bureaucracy
When all is said in done even looking beyond the natural corruption of man choosing which company, product or man will succeed, there is a naturally perverse set of incentives that causes a bureaucracy to purposely fail. It is in failure that a agency such as the CDC or FEMA or the EPA is rewarded. When they are doing their job well, they risk the threat of losing funding. In the world of government budgeting, if an agency is doing great, they are probably overfunded since the state views success as simply a matter of funding. This means that if there is no more disease because the CDC performed so well then congress would cut their funding. Therefore there is a strong incentive for the CDC to always have some sort of disease running rampant and if there is no disease running rampant, then things like obesity that were not previously thought of as a disease will be reclassified as a disease in order to stay relevant. Agencies biggest threat is success or having technology advance in a way that makes them obsolete as that is the only way the life long official waiting for their pension will make it to their pension, is as long as their agency stays needed.
The Purposeful Failure of FEMA at Katrina
One of the biggest things that hurt George W. Bush’s Presidency was hurricane Katrina. An entire city is destroyed by a mighty hurricane and no federal relief arrives. In fact, there are many horror stories from those on the ground ready to help of receiving basically what amounts to a “stand down” order from the “officials” in charge of providing relief. Although FEMA had always existed and was well enough supplied to bring relief to the people in Mississippi and Louisiana, they finally had their moment to become hyper relevant, to become one of the most well funded and oversized agencies in the interior federal government. So, had they over performed, it is almost guaranteed that they would not have received any extra funding. Instead, they purposely withheld their services and relief and in the end, Congress rewarded them with massive increases in their annual funding.
The FCC and the Internet
Although the FCC does not fit the mold of the exact scenario of underperforming or creating crisis to expand, they did demonstrate that powerful Bureaucracies will vastly supersede their power and authority to stay relevant and expand in size. The FCC stands for the Federal Communications Commission and was originally commissioned with making sure the radio wave spectrum was kept organized and had law and order to it. This applied to broadcast TV since those were part of the radio wave spectrum. The FCC then ran into problems with the Cable networks. These communications were not in the public domain and were not broadcasting. Then the case of the internet came up and now the FCC had almost no excuse for jurisdiction there yet, almost overnight and with no elected representation, they voted to give themselves full regulatory power over the internet. Undoubtedly, what was a progressive and improving internet both in speed and use will stall, will have major issues with its ability to operate and soon the FCC will be demanding more money in order to fix the issues.
The Annual Budgeting Crisis of Public School Districts
Another example of this same perverse form of economics seen in our daily lives is that of public schools. All over the country on an almost annual basis we see school districts not only begging for more money, but holding the citizens of the city hostage with threats of cutting all the most beloved programs, firing teachers, and increasing classroom size and decreasing the amount of actual education if their budget is not increased. Decreasing metrics such as graduation rates and standardized tests and college acceptance totals are met with increasing demands not for critical internal reforms to bring the school within its already established budget, firing underperforming teachers, downsizing the district level bureaucracy and modernizing the technology; but with incessant screams for more money. Throw more money on the fire we purposely started they say and that will put the fire out! This is the logic of the public school districts all over the world.
The EPA: A Real World Proof of this “Theory”
The EPA just backed this economic school of thought with a proven, caught with their hands in the cookie jar example. The EPA was originally intended to be an executive enforcement agency to enforce federal laws such as that banning DDT and protecting endangered species. Quickly, the EPA was able to secure regulatory and legislative powers from Congress and moved into regulating everything from wetlands to mines to smoke stack pollution.
In early August 2015, an EPA crew sent to inspect the Gold King mine in Colorado “accidently” knocked a hole in a waste pit releasing at least three million gallons of acidic liquid filled with toxic substances including heavy metals into a pristine rocky mountain river. This could have catastrophic consequences for the local biosphere and will need to be cleaned up for sure. One week before the “spill” happened, a geologist with 47 years of experience had written the local paper which was published in an editorial from that paper. In it, he explains that he is retired and wanted to unplug from the world but saw the writing on the wall with the EPA’s activity. He said they were setting up the town and industry for what he called a “Superfund Blitzkrieg.” He explains in great detail how the EPA is going to follow a recipe of plugging up the mine, creating a huge surplus of waste water and building pressure until the water then finds its way out of the mine and into the local environment. He then explained how they will need to build a half billion dollar plant to clean up the mess funds of course will come from the national treasure.
There is no way to avoid this form of perverse incentives when the powers of the executive and legislature are combined. If the agency tasked with protecting the environment would purposely destroy the environment simply to stay relevant and leach more money, then think of this same effect with the FDA and what its commission is in protecting us from bad food and drugs! When there is a monopoly, there are lifetime bureaucrats. Separation of powers is critical for a functioning public domain as the different branches then both compete with each other and stop each other from doing this form of harm. The EPA and its friends at the federal level should be revoked of all regulatory power and should have to get a warrant and use due process to enforce laws duly put in place by the legislative body elected by the people.