You have been to the motor vehicle office, so you already know what it is, just not what it’s called. It’s like that weird pale fruit salad with marshmallows being called “ambrosia.” Some things you just don’t know until you know.

by hitty evie on flickr
by hitty evie on flickr

Bureaucracy grows in the space between wealth, population and rules. Animals that work in societies have a form of bureaucracy too.

The bureau, populated by bureaucrats, determines who gets what part of the community resources. You want some food from the community food hoard? Fill out this requisition form and stand in line until you get it.

Or die waiting.

A queen bee can’t be everywhere telling everyone what to do. She has thousands of eggs to make and can’t be bothered with enforcing all the rules. Her bureaucrats take care of that. Having all that administrative support ensures that her queendom runs smoothly and the rules that keep it going are transmitted over vast distances.

In the human world, very few bureaucrats are elected and most are paid. They are not expected to be creative and independent in dealing with their clients — they are there to make sure everyone follows the rules and jumps through all the required hoops to get their reward. Some people just love doing that.

by 83318973@N00 aka Marcus on Flickr
by 83318973@N00 aka Marcus on Flickr

When a bureaucracy is created to solve a problem, they already have yet another problem on their hands. If they are really effective in their mission they will eliminate their own jobs. Because of that, the first order of business is finding ways to maximize its influence and to make itself essential.

The best way to make sure your bureau will remain strong and populous into the future is to have it handle something terrifying and amorphous. Instead of forming the Bureau of Smallpox Eradication (job well done!), consider something more like the Bureau of Unexpected Melting. (Notice that title doesn’t specify human melting, farm animal melting or glacier melting because it’s genius. Every solid is a client).

Ancient bureaucracies were really good at collecting money and modern ones are too. They also have great skill in crafting shrouds of baloney to hide where exactly all the money goes. This creates the need for the Bureau of Baloney and Accountability.

It’s depressing and I’m sorry it’s depressing.

When you were little, we had a video game called Bureaucracy. It was supposed to be hilarious, but prolonged playing really did make me feel queasy and gloomy.

I never finished it because I’m pretty sure it never came to an end.

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