Category Archives: ballast

How to get ahead in a state or corporate bureaucracy

The pseudo-poetic metaphors are about as inspirational as a cargo ship’s ballast

The vital quality, writes Dalrymple, is

the mastery of, and willingness to use, a certain kind of language that is opaque and almost meaningless to an outsider. The mastery requires dedication, and the willingness a lack of scruple. It demands a certain intelligence, but not high intelligence. Mediocrities do it best because others are impatient of it.

The language

is peculiar to itself, and makes a speech by the late Leonid Brezhnev seem like a soliloquy by Hamlet. Full of neologisms, its words have connotations but no definite meaning can be fixed to them. Vagueness is essential because only then can responsibility be denied when things go wrong. It is ugly and circumlocutory, but with occasional pseudo-poetic metaphors that are supposed to be inspirational but are as exciting as a cargo ship’s ballast.

This bureaucratese, says Dalrymple

is ever more widespread. It has left few corners of our world uninvaded. It is to be found almost everywhere. It is native to government, of course, but it is certainly not confined to government. Large companies employ it, as do educational institutions.

A question he has long pondered

is whether anyone, in the privacy of his mind, employs such language. I suspect that after a time those who employ it can use no other.