MORE ON HOW BUREAUCRATS THINK

Monthly Column by Jim Robertson, September 1994

("Diversifying your Domains" as a practical strategy for dealing with bureaucrats forms a highly effective paradigm of Freedom Technology. The last portion of my column last month touched on this strategy. We'll continue that in future months. Right now it seems appropriate to focus some more on how bureaucrats think.)

Why Do Bureaucrats Compulsively Create Rules? When bureaucrats perceive some problem exists, they think that more rules must be created and enforced and obeyed to solve the problem. One difference between a freedom-oriented individual and a bureaucrat in this regard is in the use rules are put to. Rules as guidelines (heuristic rules-of-thumb) for decision-making can be very helpful in solving problems. Bureaucrats think that creating and enforcing MORE rules in and of itself "solves any perceived problem." For them, the important consideration about any problem they perceive is that "we DO something about it by creating and enforcing more rules about it."

What really matters little to a bureaucrat is: (1) Does a problem exist at all, apart from the bureaucratic mentality that such a problem exists? (2) Assuming there really is a problem, will the creation and enforcement of more rules effectively solve the problem? Or will the creation and enforcement of more rules make the problem worse? (3) What is the morality of creating and enforcing rules at gun point?

When bureaucrats create and enforce more rules, they feel a satisfaction in their job performance. "At least we've DONE something about it!" They feel good. Even on the rare occasions when they admit that their rule creation and rule enforcement caused more problems than they solved, they still feel they have done their jobs well because they have obeyed the system of rules that is the essence of their jobs. They feel no one can blame them - and in fact they should be given lots of credit for a job well done! - when they use their system of rules to create and enforce more rules specific to a given domain or situation. The good feeling about their job performance arises because: (1) Bureaucrats believe in the cult of following orders for their own sake, so they self-perpetuate this cult by creating and enforcing more rules - and feel good when they obey their own system; (2) Among the few bureaucrats that care about the morality of their jobs: these few believe that part of the moral good they are doing on the job arises from convincing or forcing as many individuals as possible in their domain to obey the rules they have created.

Given these attitudes, it's not surprising that bureaucrats feel a psychological need to create and enforce more rules, just for the sake of creating and enforcing more rules. They feel a compulsion to do so. (Sarcastic thought: Could a 12-step program help them solve the problem: "Hello. My name is Joe. I'm a compulsive rule-maker. I am powerless to avoid this compulsion to make and enforce rules. I turn my will and my power over to a Higher Power greater than me. I relinquish my individuality and will to the Higher Power of my Superior Bureaucrat. If my Superior orders me to not create and enforce more rules, only then will I stop doing so.")

In Particular, Why Do Higher-Level Bureaucrats Compulsively Create Rules? Many higher-level bureaucrats are clever enough to realize that rule creation and rule enforcement form the very reason they have the job they have. This is the raison d'être (reason for the existence) of their jobs and the system they have organized for rule creation and enforcement. The very essence of the bureaucratic format for organizing human interaction calls for increasing the number of rules, types of rules, and enforcement of those rules. For most of even higher-level bureaucrats, it's probably compulsive. But such behavior benefits them, so it's very self-serving as well.

When Do Bureaucrats Rate You (Their "Subject") as Successful? Bureaucrats rate you, a freedom-oriented individual, successful to the degree you conform to their orders and their rules. When bureaucrats say a person is successful, they mean: (1) Is that person conforming to our rules as we order? (2) Is that person paying our salaries according to our rules? (They often call that "paying your fair share for the benefit of society." What they really mean is: Will there be a continuing trough to feed from to pay the salaries of bureaucrats?)

Bureaucrats rate you successful when you surrender your individual diversity and personal power to them. When you obey their orders. Most especially, bureaucrats rate you as successful when they can convince you to admit to them that you needed their help. That indeed they knew better than you what you need in your life, and that their rule creation and rule enforcement was indeed what you needed to make your life successful. And that you followed their orders voluntarily. When they hear this from you, you can be sure they'll be smiling from ear to ear. (They must be convinced about the sincerity of your comments, however. Unless you can be convincing about "sincerely appreciating their help," it's best to avoid the topic with them. Many bureaucrats undergo considerable training and experience in detecting lack of sincerity.)

Why Do Bureaucrats Have A Different Definition of Success from You, and Why Do Bureaucrats Hate Success as You Define It? You, as a freedom-oriented individual, probably have a very different set of standards for your personal success than bureaucrats have for you. Probably there are many facets by which you might define your own personal success. Some of them might be:
(1) Financial freedom. Enough money to meet your basic living expenses. Enough money to enjoy some of the material pleasures of life. Enough money for emergencies. Ultimately, enough money such that you could consider yourself independently rich.
(2) Work-life freedom and enjoyment. Working at occupation(s) which interest you. Feeling you are making a meaningful contribution to your professional self-development and to the profession(s) you choose.
(3) Leisure-time freedom and enjoyment.
(4) Family and friends freedom and enjoyment.

This is a small sample list; pages and pages could be written on how you might term yourself successful. Some common elements of success in various areas if you are freedom-oriented is that:
(1) You probably value domains in which your individual diversity is recognized and appreciated.
(2) You probably value independence very highly.
(3) You probably value being treated as being equal as a decision-maker most of the time. You have the ability to make and to listen to proposals in your professional and personal lives. You may accept, reject, or make counteroffers in these matters - and others respect your right to do so. You defer to the judgment of others many times when another person has more expertise in some matter; however, doing so is done freely and voluntarily.
(4) You probably value creativity and spontaneity.

Bureaucrats hate individuals who consider themselves successful by these sorts of criteria (freedom-oriented). Why?

Diversity vs. conformity - Bureaucrats believe in ordering as many people as possible to conform to their rules. The diversity inherent in human beings makes it more difficult for them to execute their jobs. Their jobs are easier for them when people conform to their rules. Bureaucrats hate diversity.

Independence vs. dependence - Bureaucrats believe in forcing you to accept their "help." Even if you don't want it or need it. They keep their jobs - and create more jobs for bureaucrats - by convincing as many people as possible to become dependent upon them. Independent individuals are much harder to control than dependent people. Bureaucrats like to feel in control of other people. Entire professions exist largely to create dependencies (with the strong support of the bureaucrats). Is it any wonder, for example, why 12-step programs are so popular with many bureaucrats? The dependencies (and surrender of individual will) created form powerful psychological barriers to increasing independence among those who fall prey to them. Bureaucrats believe that most people are like children, who need to be told what to do and punished for showing too much independence. Independent individuals set their own standards and details. They don't need the rules of the bureaucrats to lead productive and meaningful lives. Bureaucrats hate independence.

Co-equal decision-making vs. following orders and submission - Bureaucrats follow orders. They believe in giving orders to other bureaucrats. If you are not a fellow bureaucrat, you are even lower in status in their eyes. You need to be told what to do, how to earn your money, how to spend your money, what is safe for you, and so on. Bureaucrats believe that most people are like children, who need to be told what to do and punished for not following orders. You respect the viewpoint of others, and their freedom to hold other viewpoints. Bureaucrats believe only their viewpoint is relevant, and that their viewpoint is an order that you must follow. You regard no person as your slave, nor any person as your master. Bureaucrats believe that they have authority to give you orders, and that you must be punished if you disagree. They believe your life, money, and body are theirs to regulate and use as they decide. Bureaucrats hate those who respect the viewpoints and decisions of others in a meaningful way.

Spontaneity and creativity vs. rote repetition and rule-following - Bureaucrats want you to follow the rules they make, without questioning them or their rules. They want you to do repetitive tasks in following their rules because then you won't think too hard or analytically about the rules; you'll just obey them without thinking about it. You value new ideas, and creative solutions to matters that arise in life. Bureaucrats don't care about the creative processes necessary for human advancement. Bureaucrats just want to see their rules obeyed, at whatever cost to human creativity and progress. Bureaucrats hate spontaneity and creativity.