Category Archives: bureaucracy

Like a butterfly to an entomologist’s board

The essays of Simon Leys, writes Dalrymple,

often combine delicacy with irony—a combination that few writers, especially in our times of stridency and parti pris, achieve.

Dalrymple cites the opening of Leys’ An Introduction to Confucius:

If we consider humanity’s greatest teachers of wisdom—the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus—we are struck by a curious paradox: today, not one of them could obtain even the most modest of teaching posts in any of our universities.

Leys goes on to explain:

The reason is simple: their qualifications are insufficient—they have published nothing.

In two sentences, writes Dalrymple, Leys

has pinned, like a butterfly to an entomologist’s board, the bureaucratic sickness that has overtaken our institutions of higher learning (and not only those institutions). There is no madness more difficult to treat than that which believes itself sane, and there is no irrationality greater than that which believes itself perfect.

It is no surprise that Leys

retired early from his university chair because the university no longer bore any resemblance to what it had once been, and misled students and the rest of society into believing it still was. A community of scholars had become an organisation of foremen on a production line.

Advertisements

Why it is practically a duty to lie to authorities

Irrespective, writes Dalrymple, of

the paperless world to which digitisation was supposed to give rise (though it does not seem that there is any less paper than there used to be), it has not reduced bureaucracy. The ease with which information may be gathered, or asked for, has brought inefficiencies and irritations of its own.

Any organisation, governmental or private,

may easily demand to know more about us than we wish to reveal. Our only defence against this prepotent intrusion is lying, which in the great majority of cases will go undetected and be without consequence.

Soviet rule is within us

Dalrymple comes across a sentence by Sergei Dovlatov:

There is no greater tragedy for a man than totally to lack character.

This, says Dalrymple,

is what I encountered every day, when the bureaucrats with whom I had to deal could not look me in the eye. Theirs was a kind of suffering, endured for the sake of a pension.

The French are on a higher plane

France, Dalrymple observes,

  • is well administered — many intelligent young people want to work for the government
  • has among the best-maintained roads
  • has excellent public transport
  • is clean. There is less litter in 100 miles than in 100 yards in England. Either the French do not drop litter or councils are more assiduous in picking it up, or both
  • provides markets everywhere, with local produce
  • offers proper bookshops. One cannot attribute the much higher cultural level in France to bookshops alone, but they help to maintain it
  • enjoys efficient roadside drain clearing services
  • has better small shops, with greater attention to detail
  • is more efficient: far fewer of the French working far fewer hours produce at least as much as the British

The failing unitary European state

Dalrymple notes that the European Union is

  • corrupt
  • bureaucratic
  • cumbersome
  • archaic
  • inhibitory of enterprise
  • economically dysfunctional
  • undemocratic

He points out that

its two most recent major innovations, the single currency and free movement across borders, have been disasters for many of its members.

The global health agenda

It is, writes Dalrymple,

an imperialism of good intentions, with its associated international bureaucracy (usually remunerated in Swiss francs).

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-19-51-45

The English civil servant

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-08-55-29It is never in the interest of the British bureaucrat, writes Dalrymple,

to solve any problem whatsoever. Indeed, he regards any solution as a threat to his job and therefore his mortgage repayments. His interest is in the multiplication of problems, not their solution. The Circumlocution Office has metastasised through British life.

Immigration and British incompetence

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 23.32.20Dalrymple points out that much immigration to the UK, for instance from Poland,

has been good and even necessary for the country.

He draws attention to the fact that the inability or unwillingness

of the British public administration to control the kind of immigration that is most feared, for example from Moslem countries,

is associated with

a generalised administrative incompetence.

He attributes the incompetence to

a culture of frivolity and to careerism in bureaucracies grown too large and convoluted to have any connection with their ostensible purposes.

Charity begins at home

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 07.56.38Save the Children certainly believes so

Dalrymple points out that Save the Children, like so many charities in the UK,

is not a charity, at least not in the normal sense of the word. It is part of Britain’s charitable-bureaucratic complex. Like most bureaucracies, it is there to serve itself.

Save the Children

  • spent £88m on humanitarian assistance in 2009 and £58m on staff wages. (It was far from the worst in this respect: the Child Poverty Action Group spent £1.5m of its income of £2m on wages.)
  • In 2009, its chief executive was paid £137,608 which, while not vast by the standards of commercial chief executives, was more than six times the median British wage at the time. This is certainly not what individual donors might think or hope their money is spent on; and it is certainly not what I think charity is.
  • Fourteen of its staff earned more than £60,000, and 150 between £30,000 and £40,000.
  • It ran a fixed-benefit pension scheme.

This ‘charity’

  • spends about £500,000 a year on efforts in Britain; local government makes donations to it of about £500,000.
  • The largest donor to the ‘charity’ by far in 2009 was the government, at £19m. The European Union chipped in with another £12m, the US government with £11m.
  • Private donations have been going down as a proportion of the total income of the ‘charity’ (and the expenses of fund-raising are equal to 31% of the funds raised), while government contributions have been rising.

Large charities in Britain

are increasingly in hock to the government and its bureaucratic machinery, with its statist outlook, and share its vocabulary. When I looked on one website advertising charity jobs, I found 21 with salaries between £50,000 and £80,000, with titles such as corporate development manager. Is this really what the old ladies who volunteer at charity shops think they are raising money for?

Save the Children

is not trying to save the children of Britain, it is trying to save the jobs in the British welfare bureaucracy.

Compassion is better as a retail than as a wholesale virtue

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 21.31.17No doubt, writes Dalrymple, there are exceptional people

who are able to feel compassion towards populations or categories of humans. But they are few. The more widely a person’s compassion is cast, the thinner it tends to be spread, until we begin to suspect that it is not compassion but a pose or an exhibition of virtue — humbug, at best an aspiration, at worst a career move.

State-subsidised bogus charity

State-subsidised bogus charity

The welfare state, Dalrymple points out,

  • protects people from the consequences of bad choices and fosters and encourages those choices, which follow the line of least resistance or favour instant gratification over longer-term desiderata
  • undermines the taking of individual responsibility, especially where the economic difference between taking it and not taking it tends to be small
  • favours the undeserving more than the deserving, in so far as the undeserving have a capacity or talent for generating more neediness than the deserving. (They also tend to be more vocal)
  • dissolves the notion of desert. There is no requirement that a beneficiary prove he deserves what he is legally entitled to. Where what is given is given as of right, not only will a recipient feel no gratitude, it must be given without compassion — without regard to any individual’s situation
Save the aid workers

Save the aid workers

The difference between public and private charity

is not that the former does not consider personal desert while the latter does; Christian charity does not require that recipients be guiltless of their predicament. It is the spirit in which the charity is given that is different. That is why large charities so closely resemble government departments: you cannot expect a bureaucracy to be charitable in spirit.