Category Archives: bureaucratisation

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.

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.

Manual labour

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 23.18.56Many staff in state organisations and large commercial concerns are in the habit of substituting activity for work, or rather, placing their unproductive or antiproductive activity in the way of your work, activity in this context being defined by Dalrymple as

doing things for pay that one would not do unless paid to do them but which conduce to no useful end except filling time and giving the appearance of busyness to superiors. That is why bureaucrats don’t saunter down corridors, they scurry. A lot of what goes on in offices (and not just in the public sector) is activity in this technical sense rather than work. It is designed to give a false impression and to fill an existential void.

It would not matter so very much, writes Dalrymple, if such activity were a form of bureaucratic masturbation, of self-pollution, only.

But alas, it is not so.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 23.35.42

A manager in the UK’s National Health Service plans his day

Others, and the work of others, must be polluted also. Activity

in my technical sense has a knock-on effect, imposing obligations on people with real work to do, for example by devising new forms for them to fill in the course of their work, slowing them down.

The information gathered on such forms

is rather like old holiday snaps, never looked at again.

However,

if bureaucrats are told to work even harder, they indulge in meta-activity; they devise procedures to discover whether their previous procedures are being complied with. This becomes a labyrinth from which there is no extrication, the bourn from which no traveller returns.

...and let us get on with some real work.

…and leave us to get on with the real work.

Therefore Dalrymple would prefer it if municipal and state bureaucrats (other than rat catchers, hospital porters, and street cleaners) were idler.

They get in the way enough as it is; to insist that they fill every minute of their time with activity is to court further useless paperwork and obstructionism.

Your own business is not your own business

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 09.22.59In order to be able to process some detail of his financial affairs, Dalrymple finds himself having to deal with one of the sprawling, impersonal, inefficient and unresponsive banking bureaucracies, one of those that

has repeatedly been forced to admit that it has engaged on huge-scale dishonesty that has cost it billions in fines and reparations (though I am not quite sure how much faith as to their sincerity or justification I should place in such admissions).

The bank demands — using in its communications always the passive voice — that Dalrymple, a mere writer (rather than, say, a trader specialising in interbank lending rates), ‘confirm the source of funds which have been deposited’ in his account.

Legalised corruption in Britain

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.00.49The highly motivated idiocy of bureaucrats

The professionalisation of management in the public service, writes Dalrymple,

was one of Mrs Thatcher’s great legacies.

Tony Blair

took political advantage. The road was open to the creation of public-service millionaires.

Opportunities have been

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.03.56

Margaret Thatcher

systematically created for the economic benefit of ambitious mediocrities.

Margaret Thatcher’s belief was that

the motivation of a manager in the public service can beneficially be made the same as that of one in a private business.

James Burnham

James Burnham

But

even in large privately owned businesses, the interests of the managers have long since ceased to be identical to those of shareholders, a fact of which Mrs Thatcher appeared to be oblivious, and which helped to bring about the banking crisis.

Thatcher

was no match for the dimmest manager of Boghampton Social Services, once that manager was freed from the straitjacket of a salary structure and could pretend to be a businessman or woman, complete with strategic — never tactical — planning and business models, the development of which necessitated teambuilding weekends in country hotels and awaydays in pleasing locations.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.06.17Before management became professionalised, managers in the public service

had no vested interest, as they do now, in inefficiency and incompetence, in the insolubility of all problems and in the creation of new ones.

What is needed, says Dalrymple,

is amateur, not professional, management. No more awaydays, no more teambuilding, no more strategic planning, no more business models. Let bureaucrats be bureaucrats — in proper circumstances, a perfectly honourable if not high calling — not ersatz businessmen.

 

The university, mother of mediocrity

The effects of the expansion of tertiary educationScreen Shot 2015-04-14 at 08.00.03

The length of education, or attendance at supposedly educational establishments, is not the same thing as education.

Guerrilla movements in the last half-century or so in Latin American countries, seeking to establish totalitarian utopias, were caused by the expansion of tertiary education, not by peasant discontent.

The graduates of that education

found after obtaining their diplomas that the only work available to them, if any at all, was beneath their new status as educated person, a Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 08.06.26status that formerly would have entitled them to both respect and an important position in society. If they found work, it was work that they could have done without having gone to university. Bitter disappointment and resentment was the natural consequence.

The equivalent in the West

is the bureaucracy that administers increasingly politically correct regulations. In this way people who have gone to the considerable trouble of obtaining a tertiary education that is of value to them neither vocationally nor intellectually may avenge themselves upon an unjust world.

Impenetrable drivel unworthy of the faculty of speech

The linguistic effluent that has engulfed Western society and economy

The linguistic effluent that is engulfing Western society and economy

Managerialese is the revenge of the unscrupulous and mediocre on the talented and principled

People who become managers in public service organisations and in large commercial firms, writes Dalrymple,

speak a kind of language that is neither colloquial nor technical nor philosophical nor literary nor precise nor poetic nor even quite human.

He asks whether their utterances correspond to what is going through their mind, or whether they have to translate their thoughts

into this simulacrum of language.

The bullshit piles up so fast you need wings to stay above it

The bullshit has piled up so fast you need wings to stay above it

No man of education and feeling can bear the tedium of it. A virus has entered the brain to

disarrange its language centres, rather as a stroke does.

Scourge of the talking robots

The source of the malady might, he suggests, lie with industrial concerns

and perhaps the business schools that trained their managers, as primates in the forests of Central Africa were the source of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Infection often escapes its original nidus to infect the surrounding population of the susceptible, in this case managers in and of the public service made susceptible by Margaret Thatcher’s ill-fated notion that the public service could be some kind of replica of private business.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 11.26.35Verbigeration

Dalrymple points out that the argot is both a symptom and a sustainer of a social revolution. Those who consult its claims are

ruthless and ambitious, mediocre in everything except in the scale of their determination to rule some tiny roost or other, and be paid accordingly. The quid pro quo is that they must learn a new language, whose mastery is far from easy: I am sure that if my readers will try to speak for only a few minutes in managerialese they will find it almost impossible, for meaning will keep breaking through their best attempts at meaninglessness.

The GP is no longer a member of a liberal profession

Sir Luke Fildes, The Doctor, 1891. Tate Gallery

Sir Luke Fildes, The Doctor, 1891. Tate Gallery

He is the executor of government diktats or obiter dicta

Ever increasing numbers of doctors: acute shortages of doctors. Such a miracle, writes Dalrymple, is one that

only our government could have wrought.

Dalrymple points out that about 250,000 doctors are registered in Britain,

but it is more difficult now to get to see any of them. There is said to be a crisis in medical manpower and that this necessitates the importation of a further 3,000 doctors this year. Fewer than two-thirds of doctors in Britain trained here. Britain parasites the rest of the world. It has outsourced a lot of undergraduate medical training.

Bureaucratic fatuity

There is a big shortage of general practitioners (i.e. family doctors or primary care providers). Young doctors do not want to go into general practice; training posts go unfilled. This is to a great extent because of the administrative burden. GPs must

spend untold hours filling forms of a soul-destroying and unnecessary kind. This is a slow kind of torture. The demands placed upon them by a bureaucracy composed of people who have little or no understanding of medical practice are immense.

Rules laid down by fools

GPs’ pay

depends on their compliance with rules laid down by fools, and this is not a happy situation for an educated and intelligent person.

Computerisation has been a factor, because for the bureaucratic mentality,

if a piece of information can be recorded, it ought to be. Before the spread of the computer, the bureaucrats’ dream of replacing all other human activity by form-filling was impossible.

Loss of prestige

The more the work

is reduced to algorithms, the less attractive it is.

The GP

is no longer a member of a liberal profession, but the executor of government diktats or, worse still, of its obiter dicta. Eventually the GP will become redundant. What is done by GPs will be done by computers or nursing assistants.

Idiocy and callousness of Britain’s psychiatric services

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 19.34.12England’s psychiatric services are appropriate, writes Dalrymple,

to a nation of paupers forced to accept what they are given.

Relatives of patients

are either ignored altogether or treated as if they were the patients’ worst enemies with some discreditable ulterior motive. That they know the patients better than anyone else, and are therefore better able than anyone else to spot deterioration, is denied by psychiatric workers who in all likelihood have never met the patient before. This leaves the relatives bemused, frustrated and furious, as well as convinced of the unutterable incompetence of the services with which they have to deal.

A feature of these services

is their extreme bureaucratisation. An anthropologist visiting from Mars might conclude after his study that those who work for psychiatric services have such a belief in the efficacy of form-filling that they actually worship forms and ascribe magical powers to them. Not long ago I looked into several disastrous outcomes that occurred in the same place at the same time. I was immediately struck by the colossal number of forms that had been filled on each patient, often the same form asking the same questions, but filled with contradictory answers. It was clear that no one could possibly have read them (except me); for the persons who filled them, the filling of the form, not the welfare of the patient, was the purpose of their work.

The impression

is of timeservers on a job-creation scheme waiting for their salaries at the end of the month rather than of professionals whose concern is for patients.

 

Tertiary education and guerrilla movements

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 11.39.47Dalrymple makes the point that education ≠ duration of education. He cites Latin American guerrilla movements, which

were caused by the expansion of tertiary education, not by peasant discontent. The graduates found that the only work available to them was beneath their status as educated persons, a status that formerly would have entitled them to respect and an important position. Bitter disappointment and resentment were the consequence.

The equivalent in the West today is

the bureaucracy that administers politically correct regulations. In this way people who have gone to the considerable trouble of obtaining a tertiary education that is of value to them neither vocationally nor intellectually may avenge themselves upon an unjust world, though their anger can’t be assuaged, being the only thing that gives meaning to their lives.