Quote of the day—Thomas Sowell

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing. If you have been living in a world where outcomes are everything, you may have a very hard time understanding bureaucratic thinking or practices.

Thomas Sowell
November 27, 2003
Random Thoughts
[And so it is with the bureaucracies associated with gun ownership and explosives storage.—Joe]


4 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Thomas Sowell

  1. It’s not that people don’t see the value in procedures. Being in QA, I deal in written procedures on a constant basis. But the whole point of the procedure is to generate a desired outcome; i.e., we have THIS specification for a part, therefore perform THAT procedure and we get that part.

    But for bureaucrats, the procedure isn’t simply for a purpose; the procedure IS its own purpose.

    • Well, there is a purpose, but it’s secret. The purpose is the perpetuation and continuous growth of the bureaucracy. Anything that happens is touted as a reason for more bureaucrats and more spending. In particular, failure is always blamed on insufficient spending, which is why you see failure so often. Not only is failure the natural consequence of government programs, but the incentives actually favor failure, not success.

  2. When I worked for a small city, I shared this thought with someone newly hired from the private sector (an architect): Don’t get your hopes up. The best run government is only as good as the worst run business.

  3. To understand a large govt bureaucracy, remember that their lawyers are getting paid to sit around and do nothing, but to get overtime, bonuses and raises, they need active lawsuits. The lawyers are incentivized to give advice for their agency to do things that get them sued. The bigger and longer the lawsuit, the better (for them).

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