Bureaucracy: success is measured by following rules and procedures, even if doing so harms the tax-paying public

“But the activities of government departments, bureaus, and enterprises cannot be evaluated, judged, or supervised by profit-and-loss balance sheets. Their activities and standards of success or failure are outside the market. The only way to determine that branches of government are fulfilling the goals and targets that validate their existence is to set up rules and procedures that specify how those working in the bureaucracy are expected to perform. That is the method by which those employed in government are made accountable for what they do and how much they spend.“

“It doesn’t matter how irrational or terrifying a bureaucrat’s behavior may seem. In bureaucracy, the rule is not that the customer is always right, but that the proper forms have been completed in the correct sequence. Success is not measured by whether a new and better product has been manufactured, been sold, and earned a profit, indicating enhanced consumer satisfaction. Success is measured by following procedures and rules, regardless of whether doing so harms the tax-paying public or any others in society. The expansion or contraction of some subdivision of a government agency is not guided by profit or loss. Instead, political fashions, fads, and crises usually provide the rationales and justifications for larger budgets, increased manpower, and greater authority over some segment of social and economic life.”

A’s Mises explained, an enterprise or activity is either guided by the pursuit of profit or it is not: Make profits by satisfying consumers better than the market supply-side rivals, or meet the legislative mandate of the government bureau or agency by following the rules and procedures specified in your job description. Those who head government departments, bureaus, and agencies are answerable and responsive to politicians, interest groups, and the changing political currents and crises that influence public policy. Success is measured by bigger budgets and increased power, fueled by never- ending social problems that justify the bureaucracy’s existence and the power of politicians in political office.”

“We need to keep these things in mind as campaign hysteria and hype pick up in the months leading up to an election. They should remind us that even democratic decision-making has very little to do with the real self- determination and self-rule that can be ensured by limiting government and allowing the individual person the liberty to guide, shape, and direct his own life in peaceful market association with his fellow men.”

Austrian Economics & Public Policy–Restoring Freedom and Prosperity., pp. 187-188, Richard Ebeling