Monday, April 7, 2014

The Ugliness and Indictment of the Bureaucratic System

We observe in the first article about bureaucracy that the conflict between capitalism and socialism can be seen from various angles, but among them, the investigation of the bureaucratic system is the most expedient. In this second article, I will show the ugliness and the indictment of the system taken from two sections in the introductory part of the book. 

The Ugliness of the Terms

There is a general consensus "that the terms bureaucrat, bureaucratic, and bureaucracy" are usually perceived as ugly and bad. Nobody want to be called a "bureaucrat." People in government prefer to be called "civil servant," "a functionary of the State unswervingly attending day and night to the welfare of the nation" (p. 1). Even progressives do not like the terms. 

The critics of bureaucracy identify the "progressives" as responsible for its spread. However, the response of the "progressives" to bureaucracy is puzzling. They do not defend the system. They join the critics in condemning it. They argue that bureaucracy is not an essential part in their utopia. Instead, they say that bureaucracy is a system inherent in capitalism, which is inescapable in the inevitable process of its own disappearance. Once socialism becomes a reality, both capitalism and bureaucracy will be abolished. There is no need for any bureaucrat in socialistic paradise for the proletariat will take care of themselves. Only the "narrow-minded bourgeois can fall prey to the error that bureaucracy gives a foretaste of what socialism has in store for mankind" (p. 2). 

With this confusing atmosphere about the term, it is better to first ask about the nature of bureaucracy. 

The Indictment of the Bureaucratic System

Mises darkly paints, and describes the evils of growing bureaucratization. His description is applicable to all nations who are following after the footstep of the US. 

The supremacy of the voters and the liberty of citizens are protected through election of politicians into public office and through the separation of powers of three branches of a democractic government. However, the democratic system has been gradually eroded and replaced with tyrannical government through the power of unelected bureaucrats. Mises portrays the bureaucratic system as an enemy of liberty, unconstitutional, "undemocratic," and "a replica of the totalitarian methods of Stalin and Hitler" (p. 3). Notice how Mises further depicts the economic destruction wrought by bureaucracy:
"It is imbued with a fanatical hostility to free enterprise and private property. It paralyzes the conduct of business and lowers the productivity of labor. By heedless spending it squanders the nation's wealth. It is inefficient and wasteful. . . . it has no definite plans and aims. It lacks unity and uniformity; the various bureaus and agencies work at cross-purposes. The outcome is a disintegration of the whole social apparatus of production and distribution. Poverty and distress are bound to follow" (ibid.). 
Though Mises highlights the ugliness of the bureaucratic system, he neither blames the bureaucrats nor the bureaucracy itself. Rather, he traces the evolution of the system somewhere else. He found its source among political parties and pressure groups advocating for "government omnipotence" (p. 4). Again, see how Mises pictures the economic policies advocated by these statists:
They "are fervently asking for public control of all economic activities, for thorough government planning, and for the nationalization of business. They aim at full government control of education and at the socialization of the medical profession. There is no sphere of human activity that they would not be prepared to subordinate to regimentation by the authorities. In their eyes, state control is the panacea for all ills" (ibid.). 
The statists believe that nothing can stop the inevitable evolution of the society "toward the earthly paradise of full government control" (ibid.). And as a result of "progressive" policies enumerated above, "new offices and government agencies thrive like mushrooms. The bureaucrats multiply and are anxious to restrict, step by step, the individual citizen's freedom to act" (ibid.).

Criticizing the system itself is misleading for it fails to identify the source. Technical procedures themselves are not the problems, but totalitarian economic policies. Parliamentary procedures for instance "are an adequate method for dealing with the framing of laws needed by a community based on private ownership of the means of production, free enterprise, and consumers' sovereignty" (p. 8), but they are inappropriate under a totalitarian regime. Government control of business is one specific example. In the US, the framers of the Constitution "understood that government control of business is ultimately incompatible with any form of constitutional and democratic government" (ibid.). It is therefore not an accident that socialist countries are governed in a totalitarian way. You cannot reconcile totalitarianism and representative government. Even if Hitler and Stalin would submit to "parliaments," affairs in Germany and Russia would not change. Under totalitarian "control of business, parliaments cannot be anything else than assemblies of yes men" (ibid.). 

It is therefore mistaken to blame the system if the bureaucrats are no longer acting as civil servants "but irresponsible and arbitrary masters and tyrants" (p. 9). The culprit is the new political system, "which restricts the individual's freedom to manage his own affairs and assigns· more and more tasks to the government" (ibid.). And besides, the political system considers the anti-business policy of bureaucracy as commendable, and any businessman who resists it is considered a public enemy. 

And finally, from a formalistic perspective, the constitutionality of bureaucracy is legitimate. However, assessing it on the basis of the spirit of the Constitution, it is equivalent to an abandonment of the cherished values that made the American people great in the past. But this argument is not enough to convince the progressives in their advocacies. They see history differently. They see that the Constitution has been abused by the ruling class to exploit the masses. 

And so for Ludwig von Mises, simply focusing on the evils of bureaucratism is misleading. One must see beyond the symptoms and penetrate into the source, a new political system that advocates government ominipotence, and socialism is the only ideology that provides justification for totalitarianism. See how Ludwig von Mises defines this conflict: 
"The main issue in present-day political struggles is whether society should be organized on the basis of private ownership of the means of production (capitalism, the market system) or on the basis of public control of the means of production (socialism, communism, planned economy). Capitalism means free enterprise, sovereignty of the consumers in economic matters, and sovereignty of the voters in political matters. Socialism means full government control of every sphere of the individual's life and the unrestricted supremacy of the government in its capacity as central board of production management. There is no compromise possible between these two systems. Contrary to a popular fallacy there is no middle way, no third system possible as a pattern of a permanent social order. The citizens must choose between capitalism and socialism . . . ." (p. 10). 

Source: Mises, L. (1944). Bureaucracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.