Bureaucracy Can be Good !

Bureaucracy picture

One comment that was reeled out during the rather depressing Brexit debate was that we had to move away from the heavy bureaucracy of the European Institutions. Leaving aside the false argument that this was an unelected bureaucracy – remember we had a European Parliament electing MEP’s by proportional representation who would pass legislation , which in many ways was more democratic than our old creaking domestic ‘first past the post system – we should be very careful what we wish for here.

Many people calling for the end of European bureaucratic organisations are the same people who seem hell bent on getting rid of any ‘quango’ or executive organisation.The problem with this movement is that it has coloured the language to make us believe that bureaucracy is an inherently bad thing.

I looked up the definition of ‘Bureaucracy’ in the Cambridge dictionary. It states that it is a ‘system for controlling a country, company, or organisation that is operated by a large number of officials employed to follow rules carefully’. This should provide significant food for thought. For example take a step back and consider how many areas of your practical life depend on bureaucracy. The answer? ; well getting paid correctly, having medical services available, having your refuse collected or having local schools at hand ; none of this would be possible without the above.

Whilst there is room for improvement in the way that some of these areas are run it’s not bureaucracy in itself that’s the problem, rather I would argue it’s the reasons for it and the way it’s executed that will determine whether it’s good or bad bureaucracy. I would also argue that size is not necessarily an issue. For example to run an effective tax and benefits system we need plenty of people to ensure that the detail is in place to make the system effective and fair.

More significantly effective bureaucracy is also essential in tackling the major challenges ahead, not least of which is moving into a new low carbon world. Responsible environmental regulations can only be successful if we have a good bureaucracy enforcing it. Whilst not perfect the European Union has been a lot more effective than our domestic government in imposing necessary low carbon legislation. In light of Brexit this is something we need to revive quickly.

So when someone says to you we want to get away from bureaucracy ask them what they mean by that. In other words be careful what you wish for !


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