BUREAUCRACY - A WORLD OF WASTE |
The Seamy Side of a Protected Species.
What does anybody not know about bureaucracy ? What can anybody do about it ? The recent dramatic catalogue of disasters that have hit the highly developed nations of the world, may well produce some answers with respect to a section of public administration that has taken over from the ancient hit men who took the unsuspecting to the front line by force. By front line, I mean that of the interminable battles between those who used the poor to protect their own chattels. Not a savoury thought but disgustingly true and which practice, basically finished not so long ago, with the removal of conscription service. In fact what we call the State, has assumed the role of the God it purports to rule under and thereby implicating it in some of the worst and most obscene activities that man can do to fellow man. The bureaucracy has always functioned in the shadows, sending out its usually demoralizing demands under threat for new taxes or sanctions. The effect on the public has been antipathy and eventually outright disgust as the paperwork and futile attempts to communicate have broken down the barriers of mutual respect. The oft quoted remark that civil servants are only doing what Governments tell them to do (and supposedly in the public interest) is now questionable in view of the fact that this clerical phenomenon at times almost eclipses the power of government itself.
The Privilege of being a public servant.
The bureaucracy also appears to be privy to a great deal that the public is not allowed to know. This is not a problem in the evolving nature of politics but the increasingly insignificant politicians who inexplicably appear to get top government positions put the public at risk. In fact, assuming as it clearly does that the average man, in the face of collective authority, is helpless to the point of submission, the bureaucracy has become increasingly daring to the point of cynicism. Public functionaries have, over the years and in most countries run a reciprocal battle against the politicians pitting their accumulated knowledge against the relative naivety of the political newcomers. These in turn, faced with the unacceptable threat from an almost religiously cohesive body of people, stretching down to undercover movements, very soon give way to unwritten pacts. Since even the law enforcement agencies form part of this shadowy overall force, it is not difficult to understand how little it takes for the politicians to give way. A very authoritative top member of the British secret services, a Rothschild for that matter, faced by Margaret Thatcher (with what he considered unwarranted demands on the transparency of the sector), was quick to point out publicly that she was lacking in intelligence. The sinister public episode, was the first salvo across the bows of the Iron Lady who possibly lasted as long as they wanted her to. Add a little sauce flavoured with the sort of close fraternities that operate in these dank corridors and the consolidation of the organisation as a shadow government is well cemented. In the face of this, is the bureaucracy an essential instrument of good government ? If so, is it possible to eradicate the nepotism and often outright expensive corruption it has lived with through the centuries ? Heavy words indeed and are they justified ? In some European countries which to all extent and purposes are ballot box democracies, the corruption in these areas almost touches its own ceiling, but in places like the United Kingdom where such things have only been noticed fairly recently, it appears that it lies in the nature of the animal and impossible to eradicate when moral values have been replaced by monetary ones. In the face of it, public outcry, is easily and effectively smothered by promises of a change, followed by a dismal resignation in the form of the usual and sometimes, (pre-negotiated ?) sacrificial lamb. At what expense and how much hidden dialogue or compromise lies in these tactical, shuffles ?
The dangers of runaway bureacratic powers can be seen today with departments hopelessly incapable of doing even the sort of basic home abuse work that a cheap neighbourhood watch could do better - and infinitely less expensively. It also has the power to bankrupt a nation through its demands and strong union affiliations. In fact, the overconfidence displayed at the counters of public contact would make any behavioural scientist only too aware that this was a protected species if every there was one. The other behavioural factor, known as the paper chase lark or passing the buck, suggests that decisions, if at all made, take much longer to consolidate with self interest at stake. The cost to the taxpayer of these delays is always unfairly high and in the main involving a whole series of departments in the absence of individual capability of stopping the buck. An unrelated but significant expense factor is that which involves outside contractors, which potential candidates, know only too well beforehand just how much they can be expected to tender to be likely to clinch those lucrative tasks. In the end, transparency is impossible to determine. Even in countries with relatively low, built in corruption, outside work is of a much more expensive order than the identical would be for the average entrepreneur to get done, efficiently and well. In those countries with corruption factors of a higher order, the monies paid and spent bear no comparison to the value of the contract and in most instances are an excuse to line pockets in office and often whole levels of sub contractors whose sole objective is to pass it further down the line at a price. The end supplier usually does so with materials well below specification standards and nowhere near those originally determined by the tender notices. Massive accidents follow which are all too frequent. The national favourites and usually, party politically orientated giants created at the top of this ladder, are quite capable of making bids and taking over foreign industries with an inherent in-expertise that is a recipe for further disaster in countries unwittingly caught by first impressions. An appreciably high level of so-called government employment, often reflects a tendency to spread outwards exponentially and eventually leading, as always, to higher and more excessive demands on the tax payer. Who else can afford this lunacy ? There is a school of thought among politicians that the civil service considers itself on a higher social level to the people voted in by the electorate. It would seem that it classifies the general member of the public as green and not up to the task the so called “guardians of posterity” call social development. The disquieting factor is that for every ten job losses across the social board, probably only one occurs in those protected and generally overcrowded cupboards of public expenditure. The truth is that once considered “established” it is much more difficult to remove a civil servant than it is for the average private wage earner. In reality, the civil service with all its waste, generous retirement settlements and self indulgence represents a very large portion of the public bill. This weight on the economy is one which of course the very people who pay their wages are the victims of. In the last two decades this sector has seen the creation of the most licentious variety of taxes and sanctions ever created, (including the iniquitous and upward soaring VAT), driving the small and medium sized companies and the family into recessive trends. This may just sound like popular anti-establishment flack, but it would take more than a super-mathematician to disprove the reality of the high percentage cost of this, largely unnecessary, body of pen pushers in relation to the national income.
The outlandish cost of the civil service.
If the cost per unit of civil service expenditure was lower than market average for the same effort, one could dismiss the phenomenon as another valid level of work or social contribution, but what emerges is the concept of the spoiled lover with the credit card. No private company could function effectively with such a highly geared workforce without facing bankruptcy sooner than later. Why therefore do people tolerate and support their own executioners ? In general, the civil service has escaped imperative reforms recommended by investigators which are now probably too late to apply, as the axe comes down with a vengeance that acute public indignity supports. It will be seen however, whether privilege and fear of this sector will turn the axe to good use with the same ruthless force as the major companies have done in shedding their liabilities and with such necessary speed. The problem is the unemployment of course and the loss to the state of these, technically whitewashed and secret bound workers drawn usually from their party ranks. It also remains to be seen, in this economic climate, whether the civil service continues to be the safe haven of the wrong sort of ambition. A bit of cynicism perhaps, but in a European country recently, a public outcry was raised by the mere fact that applicants for jobs with the civil service had to physically take puerile and basic examinations that in the past had not been necessary. Despite it just being a sop to a Europe which is largely ignored, both unions and family pressures are still busy trying to remove this obstacle to the old, inefficient and chaotic ways. As the rude, un-charismatic interviewer or tax collector sets the stage to depress and demoralize those unfortunate enough to have to deal with them, the Victorian welfare dream turns sour. Even more so as has been increasingly seen, with the social, preventable atrocities that occur regularly in the absence of capable, trained personnel. It is not to say of course, that there are no meaningful and helpful members in those establishments, but the concept of hard earned experience and its application is lost in what is no more than another social dimension with its own inhabitants.
Political fear of the service
In the face of potential job losses in the civil service the fear that politicians feel against their ruthless retaliatory backlash is all too real as the spectre of strikes and stage managed shortcomings in already badly run social services, become evident. All too often, the slimming measures demanded of the sector is met with cries for increased or new taxes. In the absence of these, irresponsible taxation via energy bill increases and or direct measures against vice products, like alcohol or tobacco, allows them to carry on unchallenged. With such desperate moves, visions of the fiscal measures of the 1930's in the US warn of the emergence of a new and more sophisticated class of delinquents which could further lower the decreasing quality of family life. Privatisation, instead of good management seemed to be the answer to most of these ills in the past, but in fact all it did was create a financial vacuum for the bureaucracy to reinvent itself and at greater cost. In the last thirty years, public expenditure in most developed societies has risen to inexplicably high percentages of the national income and penny for penny accountability has always been notably absent in most. Whether the so called reserves that some countries create unofficially and which they often boast about are real or diverted expediency drains to cover underhand manoeuvres, has yet to be established but the implication is there. The departments of State, now need listings so long that even telephone operators can fumble for some time before determining where exactly an outside call should be directed to. Whereas before, any complaint or enquiry could be easily referred across, today, despite so called progress, it is now the usual blank wall or chargeable numbers which cause public frustration and eventual loss of contact. In other ways, it has become another means of one sided persuasion and unmitigated demand for public subservience. If this is what benign dictatorship is all about, so be it, but the results are only too destructive to be acceptable and whole economies are starting to crumble. Recession has only one meaning - the average family has nothing to spend on non essentials or probably, as is the case with a growing section of highly developed societies – no longer enough to buy essential necessities with. A sad case of affairs no doubt but in essence the result of only one single reason – the taxing of the society out of existence.
No mystery in recession
Economies shrink because people do not buy and they do that because they have no money left to spend. It is as simple as that and the answer lies in giving the wage earner more from the places where those funds are badly spent. Governments have gone too far in their attempt to harness the public purse, pushing its own loans and political commitments beyond the capacity of the average family to subsidize it. It spends so rashly, purely because the political breed drawn from the ranks of the “persuasive performers” and not the experienced thrifty businessmen, has little knowledge of how difficult creating income really is, with the subsequent ease in spending it. There is no financial need and plenty of spending power on the part of the public if the Government of the day allows it to keep its gotten gains. The property bubble is a farce. In fact, whereas one must agree that it should have never been allowed to develop, the various Government departments could have slowed it down and not given their banking allies every rope to hang themselves, at other people´s expense. In the property price ladder, the number of people affected is relatively small, in relation to consumers in the whole country but the subject of eviction is press attentive and politically scathing and therefore worthy of vote catching publicity. Particularly when it can be blamed on somebody else. However, it is no more than an excuse to keep people away from the real causes - Government spending and its massive bank borrowings. Those incapable of paying for the mortgage increases caused by greedy banking practices are not all that many and succumbing to repossession is often a way out of ditching an unsaleable item which should have never been bought in the first place. Fortunately, most of these cases can now be addressed individually and with better methods than those totally absent in the 1992 shameful crunch. A collapse that affected most of the nation and when banks made mincemeat of and squandered property owners´ monies, whilst politicians showed more interest in finding solutions to the self created problems of spoiled Lloyd's investors.
Recurring perpetrators of recession.
The recurring perpetrators of recessions which emerge therefore, are the Bankers and the Government spenders (not necessarily the politicians directly). Whoever therefore uses the bubble as an excuse is in my opinion, morally deceitful. What the property bubble does, is put the shameless bankers in the red who are either not very intelligent or else determined to bring it about, for some obscure reason. A close look at Banking practices in Europe shows it up generally, to have done little to foster, creative manufacture. Neither has it supported the incalculably invaluable entrepreneurs with proven records or the millions of small hard-pressed companies which are the mainstay of all economies. In some, foreign investors have been deliberately obstructed and discriminated against by calculated banking policies and unfair fiscal pressures among other things. For the politician however with a much clearer view of their future party and personal needs, the giant industries with promises of safe sinecures in the political afterlife, are the priorities they uphold, causing market imbalances that drive the small competing companies to the wall. Needless to say, pound for pound, it is the immense number of small to medium sized company that provides the state with the bulk of its employment and its revenue. Anyone with a bit of understanding of genuine investment in needed and growth areas, can catch a glimpse of the blindness and dangerous self esteem of the very privileged few who have had access to those banking licenses. The unacceptable part of it is that these privileges are designed to foster the economic growth of the communities they serve and not for investments designed around share values, which in the main, are manipulated by cartels to the benefit again, of a chosen few. The sickening news of the millions that incompetent and almost delinquent executives demand as pay offs and who have already stashed away massive unseen sums, is beyond the understanding of those who lose everything they have fought and worked for all their lives, because of them. In some lesser developed countries of the European Union, the pre-fall manuoevres could be seen when the major shareholders and company administrators, were found to have successfully turned their avowed commitment shares in the banks and public companies to good use elsewhere. It would be interesting to discover the means of disposal at the time and the access to the sort of information that made the other millions of unsuspecting small shareholders lose their shirts as a result. Fortunately, this reprehensible executive dumping is not common in the higher echelons of Europe where a better understanding of values and sense of duty is demanded and ruthlessly punished when seen to be absent. If Governments had supported venture capital and discouraged suicidal lending based on yuppie yodelling, the property market, as happens in many countries, would have remained not only stable, but retained its model role of good sustainable, investment growth. In fact, what it has always been in Europe, before those public relations practitioners created the deceitful expressions that have taken advantage of lower, public, educational standards. In some European countries the situation is much worse, albeit hidden by standard Government methods of misinformation.
Irresponsible approach to building.
In the absence of sound economic policies, prolific building geared to tourism created an unsustainable export market leading to wholesale corruption and the destruction of the economy itself. It goes without saying that the fortunes earned, benefited the usual handful of interconnected services and left the rest well out in the cold including those who purchased at prices up to ten times the unit development costs. How the average family earners and the massively imported cheap labour forces are going to emerge from all this remains to be seen in what is technically a false economy incapable of regenerating itself. What also remains to be seen is how much the blind bureaucrats of Brussels are to blame with their lavish unsupervised handouts that have served corrupt purposes in the main. The higher level economies which make an honest effort to support their contributors, can and will find alleyways based on restraint that will at least keep the public in food and shelter without undue fuss. Those however who have fed off the taxpayer far too generously and allowed obscene incomes to grant them three and four generations of influence, have to face the scrutiny and if necessary, punishment for negligence. Sadly, in some countries, the judiciary is suspect and in at least one instance ruled in favour of classifying insider dealings and share pushing, as quirks of the market, leaving exonerated, virtual crooks backslapping each other in amazement. The shareholders´ representatives conversely, left crying with indignation. Unfortunately, no unfair accumulation of wealth in any one sector is devoid of harm to the rest and the end result is the erosion of the very narrow margin of growth left to the average taxpayer. The bottom line it would seem, is that corruption and tacit political tolerance does only does one thing – impoverish those least able to afford it. At the end of the game, it is the man in the street who does the heavy work and has his contribution taken at source. He should therefore own everything else that comes from it and his voice heard at every turn of the page. This economic fact appears to be lost on those who manipulate the system at everybody else´s expense. Judicious words in this instance, but the fact remains that the public, in the age of internet, is now no longer susceptible to white wash and whereas most realize that to fight the well protected system is now not on the table, it is the market forces which are now doing it for them. Never has the term “hoist by its own petard” ever been so ruthlessly accurate. At last and perhaps not too late, the waste of old can be clearly seen in perspective and the tail wagging the dog no longer permissible or invisible.
Massive changes warranted
Governments, their attitudes and political priorities have to change, face a social deterioration unheard of, even in medieval history - or die as a species with governments following each other as has always happened in most of the dismally run societies in some parts of Europe and the world. Above all, the time has come for the brave dismantling of the whole creaky, bureaucratic machinery which feeds off the now elusive public purse. As a second course, I would suggest the unilateral removal of the unnecessary and increasingly expensive local government platforms which encourage parrochial friction and debase the overall effort with demands better left to the country as a whole. And for desserts, the time is ripe for a leisure society at bread level with a choice of freedom at minimal cost which would suit the lazy and adventurous with the wanderlust of old. On the commitment side, the establishment of real commercial banks designed and led by genuine entrepreneurs to encapsulate and propagate functional ideas. Above all, they should be set up with the clear mandate of financing effort where it can be seen, leaving puerile speculation and push button computer buff lunacy investment where it belongs - in the recycle bin of a misrepresented past. The meaning of Government must return to its rightful place of social concern and unbiased management leaving personal and fantasy idealism to those who can afford it in their luxury fishbowls with nothing else to do.
CURRENT MALPRACTICES IN SOME MEMBER STATES.
Current malpractices in a Europe supposedly designed to create a better and higher quality life for its deluded member are proliferating. These are just some of them:
Property taxes on foreigners ,like those on rental incomes on local second homes whether or not they are let.
Property sales retentions are another.
State determination of property prices against market trends to ensure high stamp duties often double of that stated. This purchase tax can therefore be manipulated to ensure that the tax authorities are immune from market trends. They do not however reimburse when property values exceed their own valuations. It works against the property sector and further deteriorates market values causing unemployment. Most purchasers are unaware at point of purchase and receive invoices after as long three years after the event when many are forced to put their houses on the market or take shark loans to prevent them being seized.
Heavy small business penalties for dozens of ridiculous infringements of sausage like regulations being pumped out by Europe and avidly utilised as a means of further lucrative penalties. They encourage attacks from jealous competitors or neighbours and lazy inspectors all to eager to be seen doing a job and who act solely on local denouncements. There is no direct proof of backhanders but alley talk suggests it does exist. These cheap methods of professional activitity are no more than the creation of indirect taxes which could be avoided if inspection was to improve by routine “on the spot tuition” and encouragement towards change which is what the application of these regulations were intended to represent. Penalisation rather than education is now the official discipline and smacks of encroachment and totalitarianism. It is with some consolation that some enlightened member states are clearly disturbed and appear to be in the process of dismantling the pursuit of some of these destructive policies which can be best applied at a much higher and effective level with a degree of compassion and intelligence.
The grim results of these abuses are now basically on the table. The spirit of the law is being flouted by the member state bureaucrats who cannot wait to threaten those who cannot defend themselves and seem to delight in exercising these new powers in neighbourhoods where successful businesses are the origins of much local jealousy. The outcome however is that most of the surviving, small and medium sized businesses who provide over 70% of the national income and employment are on the way out. The sector has always been ignored in some of the European countries and the decline appears to be irreversible. Whereas the aspirations of the superstate should be to create exemplary, free and creative societies, the bulk of its efforts in some machiavellian way appears to be in the finding of ways and means to get to the bottom of the public purse by whichever means and creating armies of civil servants to do it.
To cap it all, undercover finance merchants work with local banks for national business loans costing up to 20% in the first year. The banks refuse most business loans if approached directly by the client but for some peculiar reasons allow those put to them by these merchants whose enormous charges are supposedly “unknown” to the bankers. Al loans are also subject to adequate collateral which in tha main now means only up to 50% of valuation.
Employee blackmailing of employers who utilise the labour tribunals to obtain out of court benefits by terror tactics or keep their jobs open for long periods of time after they have been dismissed for irregularities, company cashflow or sheer delinquency. The courts are being seen to be no more than labour delincuency factories and in some member states, local firms are refusing to employ their own “streetwise” nationals who have their eyes on the tribunals and its rich spoils and not the often abismal quality of their work.
Politicians in some member states openly admit belief that a controlled economy sympathetic towards a flourishing politically biased, bureaucracy is preferable to a free one and state that it requires attachment to large industrial enterprises. The political appeal of this denial of true contributors to the national wealth is obvious. The destruction of competitive small and medium sized businesses is therefore apparently justified and both union and labour based politicians make no secret of their beliefs. This in itself is bringing a number of member states to their knees.
Entrepreneurial talent and investment is leaving these countries with increasing speed, creating unemployment figures hitherto unheard of and comparisons are being made with what happened in Argentina. The question is: How much of this is the product of the Union itself and how much of it is the abuse by member states surrounded with monies and opportunities unheard of in their recent, totalitarian government histories ?
The author started his writing career in the House of Commons at the age of 16 and became the youngest member of the Commonwealth Press Union. He ventured into publishing with the first trade journal for drivers and created the first professional chauffeuring Academy which attracted national acclaim. Press and public relations posts were followed by extensive travel with the Royal Family throughout the world adding to an already deep immersion in political systems and their leaders. His executive position within the Order of Knights Templars covering both English and Spanish speaking Priories gave him a chance to see behind the political curtain rarely available to most. ---------------------------------------------------
Since this article was written much has changed worldwide and recessions of any type were not even acknowledged as such. The encapsulation of the bureaucracy has deepened even further and become an undemocratic elite governed by its own needs. It is easily manipulated by extreme left wing unions, to the further detriment of the valuable, middle classes and entrepreneurial efforts. Today the cost of these untouchables eats at the very roots of the economic systems and defies any attempt to cut it back to size.
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