Admittedly bureaucracy is not a new phenomenon. It is as old as governments and kingships
By Colls Ndlovu
As regimes in Africa embrace globalization and become part and parcel of geopolitical matrices, the question is whether individual freedom, private enterprise and related freedoms should be sacrificed in favour of authoritarian totalitarianism. Indeed, should individuals be subjected to coercion and repression or whether a new path towards democracy is located and embraced.
The word bureaucracy or any of its derivatives – like bureaucrat or bureaucratic are always and everywhere associated with inefficiency and the term, therefore, has some derogatory connotation.
These terms always denote a bad situation characterized by red-tape. The negative view of these terms is a ubiquitous phenomenon globally.
Nobody admires bureaucracy whether at a company level or at a governmental setting. Even regimes that practice this phenomenon do not want to be referred to as a bureaucracy, let alone be associated with it. Bureaucrats prefer to be called civil servants, which has the aura of hard work just like servants do in service of their masters.
Democracy and free enterprise are the nemesis of bureaucracy. Unelected and, therefore, unaccountable to ordinary people, bureaucrats come to office via appointment into permanent positions.
Controlling regulatory bodies, commissions, and bureaus within governments, bureaucrats have taken away much of the citizens’ rights and are themselves calling the shots. They regulate matters, issue decrees allegedly on behalf of governments, and can withdraw any regulatory rule at their own discretion.
Worse than tyranny
In some cases, a bureaucratic system is worse than tyrannical regimes. It has an intense hatred of the free markets mantra. Hostile towards innovation and new initiative, inefficient and bundling, it paralyses businesses and scuppers productivity.
Ultimately lowering the standards of living in a subtle way, in itself, bureaucracy is a symptom of a much deeper disease. The disease being governmental control and a move away from free enterprise towards centralization and concentration of power.
This manifests itself through the clamour for more government control of industries, and related economic activities. All these powerful lobby groups who use their unmitigated power to push for more state controls do not realise their indirect contribution towards the bureaucratization process.
But bureaucrats must be seen to be merely hands of an ever thirsty government, which wants to control whatsoever is still left of private individual control.
The bureaucrat, therefore, is a lever being used by the government to execute its stifling initiatives.
Through bureaucratization the government aims to take as much control as possible of private businesses. Individualism expressing itself through private individual enterprise is viewed as derogatory and represents greed and usury hence must be thwarted and possibly eliminated.
Free markets mean free enterprise, the supremacy of the consumer, and the sovereignty of the voters during electoral votes. The opposite of this entails government control, planned economy, commissions, rule by government agencies, etcetera. One does not need to be a genius to figure out which is better between the two.
The consumer is king
Ironically, corporates as well in some cases have grown so big so much that they themselves now have an uncanny resemblance to bureaucracy. Their management is so convoluted and bureaucratic. Steeped in computer algorithms and automated processes, the complexity and opacity amounts to a new high-tech bureaucracy of its own.
Admittedly, bureaucracy is not a new phenomenon. It is as old as governments and kingships themselves. History is replete with numerous examples of bureaucratic systems from Egypt to the Romans all the way to the kings of France, inter alia. People resent the intrusion of bureaucracy into the private livelihoods of people.
Bureaucracy is generally viewed as being synonymous with totalitarian regimes. Bureaucratic procedures, methods and directives are the hallmarks of every totalitarian regime. It is worth noting that the objective of every enterprise is to make a profit. In all this, the consumer is the king.
The consumer is the one who would decide whether to buy or not to buy a farmer’s produce. Consequently, the farmer’s profit is a function of the consumer’s decision.
The consumer is capricious and whimsical at times
The consumer is capricious and whimsical at times, unpredictable and temperamental. With no loyalty or bondage to any product, as soon as a cheaper product reaches him, he is free to change depending on quality and price. Ultimately, if entrepreneurs fail to satisfy the whims and caprices of the hard to-please consumer, this has a bearing on his bottom line of profit or loss.
Bureaucracy, meanwhile, does not respect all these business essentials. Simply issuing orders and decrees with utter disdain for the mainstay of each business, which is profitability. Responding to consumer needs and satisfying those needs is the lifeline of every business that aims to achieve profitability.
Profitability is usually the primary objective of every business.
Under a tyrannical regime, because the central government lacks ubiquity and omnipresence across the spectrum at the same time, it then seeks to tighten control of the system through an array of bureaucrats and their sub-bureaucrats. This system of bureaucrats has only one certain outcome to business people.
That is to say, losses would be incurred as a direct result of costs associated with the bureaucratic system and its inefficiency.
The idea here is to specifically try and look at the real cost of bureaucracy in its capacity as a counterproductive system insofar as enterprises are concerned.
It is totally impractical for government to have an all-round complete control of all economic activities however much it tries. The ongoing tendency for humanity to gravitate towards governmental ubiquity and omnipresence could have long been curbed and restrained if its proponents had not succeeded in indoctrinating and hypnotizing the youth with their bureaucratic mantra.
Colls Ndlovu, a currency expert, is an award-winning economist and central banker, and is the inventor of the NCX Currency Index. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
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