Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘James Q. Wilson, 1931-2012’

Full piece here.

‘The Wilson book that remains my favorite, however, and that I use the most often in teaching, is his 1989 volume Bureaucracy. Wilson argued that people like to blame bureaucrats for the failings of bureaucracies, but that the problem lay more in the nature of the public sector itself and structure of incentives created by the bureaucrats’ political masters.’

As usual, Fukuyama is profound and insightful.  But aren’t some bureaucrats responsible in so far as they weren’t aware of the baked-in problems?

“First, public sector agencies are not allowed to retain earnings, and therefore have no incentive towards economizing costs.”

They’re insulated from market signals, and from the people (taxpayers) money they are spending, and often from the people they serve (who wants to be around dysfunctional people all day?).

‘Second, public agencies are generally not permitted to reallocate factors of production like private companies. Bureaucrats are frequently subject either to civil service rules protecting them, or else backed by powerful unions that oppose firings.’


Finally, and perhaps most important, public agencies must follow goals that are not of their own choosing. Private companies have a single bottom line which is maximization of shareholder returns. Public agencies have multiple mandates that are both confusing and often mutually contradictory.

A commenter posts Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization’

Worth a read.

Related On This Site:  Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’……Won’t a commitment to efficient public administration always lead to similar problems? Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘Mexico And The Drug Wars’

The true believers are also the voting bloc who need to be placated by the politicians who keep up appearances that poverty, homelessness, privation are being addressed, while the ugly business plays out beneath…Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

Repost: Richard Feynman at NASA

Add to Technorati Favorites

Leave a Reply