Getting it Right with Government (4)

Ethically rebellious men choose a certain kind of hierarchy, a top-down hierarchy. This is Satan’s model. God does not need such a bureaucracy, for He is absolutely sovereign. He can deal with men directly. They can pray to Him directly. Not so with Satan and his followers. Satan is a creature; he can only be in one place at a time. Thus, those who believe in the messianic State place all their hopes in a top-down hierarchy of command rather than in God’s bottom-up hierarchy of appeal.[1]

Decentralisation gives people the ability to be always close to where decisions are made. That is always a good thing, because they have access to decision makers, who should be in their locality, and will be known to them. It means that information doesn’t suffer as it travels around a bureaucracy, from person to person.

You didn’t think that could happen?

Some years ago, I had an experience of this. Eatons Hill in Brisbane has a chronic, recurring problem with a number of drains in the local park that block up with sticks and leaves, when there is heavy rain. I’ve see it for many years when I go on walks through the park, and after a heavy rain period in June, when we had approximately 200 mls of rain, I thought, “I’ll help these people know what’s going on. I’ll ring them up and let them know, and that way I’ll be confident something will get done about it.”

The response was both comic and pathetic, when I made two phone calls. Nothing was done, so I rang again. Then I discovered that though I’d repeatedly given them the address, and I had been given referral numbers, my initial calls had been referred to the wrong department within the Council, which dealt with domestic flooding problems, not flooding in parks. So, it had gone to the wrong Department and sat there, but I was told, “We’ve got this sorted now, and I’ll get a person to ring you for the exact address details of these four blocked drains.”

Did that call ever come? No.

Then the BOM people (Bureau of Meteorology) warned of more heavy rain coming, so I rang again, and explained the four drains were still blocked, and (of course) more rain was coming. By now, I was becoming suspicious that nothing would be done it time, and that’s exactly what happened.

The forecast rain eventuated, and one blocked drain meant that storm water ran across the road instead of under it, creating a minor problem. Another blocked drain meant that water ran across a foot-path: another minor problem. Another small blocked drain overflowed, causing erosion, so a plastic fence was erected to protect passers-by falling down the bank into the hole that had been created from the rushing, overflowing water. That plastic fence seemed somehow symbolic.

Did anybody in that institution really care?

If they did, I never saw it. Why should they care? Responsibility is not in their job description. It’s no skin off their nose if drains block, erosion occurs and extra money has to be spent employing council workers to take hours repair the damage.

Now if that’s the case with a really small bureaucracy with a couple of hundred of employees, what’s it like in one with thousands, like the Department of Defence? The problems are magnified many times over, and finding someone to take responsibility for a problem is very difficult. Unless there is a crisis, the Department will simply blunder on, people with problems will get pushed aside, and life goes on.

Anyone who expects the bureaucratic order to reform itself is living in a fantasy world. Bureaucracies do not change; they just get worse. They get more grasping. Until their budgets are cut, nothing changes bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is expanding like a cancer, and it has been for 100 years. Margaret Thatcher was correct. Socialism works until the socialists run out of other people’s money (Gary North, 17/5/2013).

And even when there is a crisis, there is a sophisticated mechanism to deal with that too, and deflect blame. “Our mistake? Surely not! No you see, the reason for this unusual situation was that…”

This is why it’s so important to have local people dealing with local problems, with the responsibility to solve them.

I thought about this.

I thought about buying a wheel-barrow, shovel and rake and solving the problem myself, because it wouldn’t be hard. But that would mean taking responsibility for a problem that someone’s getting paid to deal with (with long-service, superannuation, holidays and workers’ compensation), but just isn’t doing it competently. It would mean I’d lie awake at night hearing heavy rain, and thinking, “Those drains will be blocked in an hour. I’ll have to get down there in the dark, cold and wet, and fix them.”

I could do it, but what about the other 374 drains in the Council’s jurisdiction? Now about 7 people have a full-time responsibility, 24/7.

Do I want this?  Not really.

I’ve got other things to do with my time than clean out blocked drains, that someone else is supposed to be paid to care for. Besides, I’m not big into self-righteous social crusades. They consume a lot of effort, get some publicity, and achieve nothing in the long-term.


So, what is needed?

Local people (individuals, families and churches), taking local responsibility for local problems. Entrepreneurs vs. bureaucracy: people who are paid to solve problems they can solve. My money’s on the entrepreneurs, every time. We start with the little things, and we get bigger.

Then over time, we find the costs of services are dropping, and Council rates get cheaper.

Surprise, surprise! We’re putting expensive and slothful bureaucrats out of work, and seeing the job done better and cheaper, by people who are actually paid to solve problems.

Doesn’t that sound like a good idea to you? It’s more economical, and it’s the way of the future.



[1] Gary DeMar, “Ruler of the Nations,” 1987, p.207.