Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thought of the day

I was intrigued by this question:

What are some examples of successful government bureaucracies?

Defining success in order to answer this question is the same problem that ultimately results in serious inefficiencies within government bureaucracies.  Without clear goals, governments end up stirring the pot but never actually cooking the meal.

To make matters worse, even unclear goals change unexpectedly on a political whim.

Imagine Steve Jobs one day promising in the media that Apple is now going to make running shoes and car tyres.  The whole Apple company would have to learn a new business, and the transition would be costly.  Then 3 years later, he is replaced by a newcomer who declares the shoe and tyre business a failure, and decides instead that Apple should run an airline.  Furthermore, the newcomer decides that the success of the new airline enterprise will not be defined by profits, but instead declares that success will be defined in terms of how much the airline is 'giving back to the community'.  It would be a disaster.

But that's the problem you see.  Tasks that have clear long term goals are no longer implemented by government, but by private contractors.  Governments are left with those tasks that are subject to pot stirring and political whim.  Hence, government bureaucracies never seem to get more efficient relative to private enterprise.


  1. Longer terms in office? More referendums?....

  2. Longer terms would be a good start to reduce changes by new governments. However, elected representatives are just as prone to political back-flips at any time.

  3. Let's just vote them in the first saturday in July each year, still gives them better job security than most in the outside world.

  4. But Cam, you premise is false. You are assuming that governments actually run the bureaucracy...