Defects of Bureaucracy
The defects of bureaucracy may be briefly summarized as follows:
The greatest criticism against bureaucracy is leveled due to its lengthy and roundabout way of doing work. Bureaucrats care very much for formal rules and regulations. However urgent the case may be, it has to run its full course of going up and down.
The minutest thing is to be written down in an official way and proper procedure is followed. Sometimes files lose their importance as the matter is not decided for months together.
Charles Dickens in his novel Little Dorrit describes the ways and methods of the Circumlocution Office in the words “….Boards sat upon them. Secretariat minuted upon them, commissions gabbled about them, clerks registered, entered, checked, and ticked them off. and they melted away. In short, all the business of the country went through the circumlocution office, except the business that never came out of it and its name was legion.”
Bagehot also is of the view, “It is an inevitable defect, that governments will care more for routine than for the results.” In fact, they are like the tailors who cut the clothes but do not find the body. Men so trained start thinking the routine of business is not a means but an end.
Closely associated with circumlocution is the defect of red-tapism which means blind following of formal rules and regulations. Though following prescribed rules is not itself bad the dogged and blind attachment to them certainly impairs the efficiency of work because then the case will not be decided on its merit but on old and outdated precedents.
The civil servants are trained in rules and regulations. So the result is that “they cut the clothes, but do not find the body.”
Bureaucrats seem to efface from a mind that the community does not exist for the filling up of forms or obeying regulations. Rather forms and regulations exist for the service of the community However, red tape to some extent is essential for providing the essential safety and control devices. Government by law necessitates conformity with the established procedures and legal regulations.
Another great defect of bureaucracy is its excessive adherence to formalism Too much use of forms and formalities makes the official lose his sense of judgment and initiative The language and the forms of official letters, and the method of making a note on the file and sending it upwards all are fixed beforehand and each officer acts mechanically in the prescribed manner.
- Bagehot describing the life of an official entering the office writes, “Entering the office young, he copied letters for five years, he made an index of papers for nine months, he made an analysis of documents for five years; more when he commenced at last to transact business it was strictly of a formal character and he was upwards of twenty years in the public service before he ever decided on anything of special importance; no wonder that he was unwilling to decide anything, that he referred everything to somebody else, that he corresponded in his best handwriting with another public office; his entries were most correct but the transactions more normally wrong; the book-keeping was admirable but the affairs recorded feeble or inefficient.”
Bureaucracy is not usually responsive to the needs of the people. It considers itself as the self-appointed guardian and interpreter of public interest. It keeps on following its old standardized procedures and does not react to the changing political climate of the country. In India, after independence, the attitude of some civil servants towards the people is of the same authoritativeness as was during British rule.
They think of themselves as a separate and superior class to all other people whom they are destined (so they suppose) to govern Prof Pfiffner says, “Routine procedures breed inflexibility, while a passion for accountability fosters legalism and delay. The official of necessity becomes specialist, intellectually isolated, oriented towards techniques rather than people.”
Bertrand Russell maintains that bureaucracy tends to develop “a negative psychology perpetually prone to prohibitions.” As a result of their day-to-day routines, civil servants develop special preferences, antipathies, and discriminations. Their vision due to their training and experience in one particular institutionalized activity becomes myopic. In the words of Burke, “People may be unfit by being fit in an unfit fitness.”
Bureaucracy has been condemned as despotic since it craves power. As such, it usurps the powers of the legislature on the one hand and sidetracks the law courts on the other.
“A little inquiry will serve to show that there is now, and for some years past, has been a persistent influence at work which whatever the motives or the intentions that support it may be thought to be, undoubtedly, has the effect of placing a large and increasing field of departmental authority and activity beyond the reach of ordinary law.”
Lord Hewart believed that the liberty of the individual was in danger because ‘ardent bureaucrat’ had usurped the powers of legislature and executive. Similarly, Ramsay Muir in his book ‘How Britain is governed has attacked the growing powers of the civil servants.
According to a critic “.The permanent civil service is becoming more and more impatient of the sham facade of democracy behind which it works and is showing progressively greater skill in using the forms of parliament and the convenient doctrine of ministerial responsibility as a cover for the steady increase of the power of the department.”
- Empire Building:
Bureaucracy perpetuates the evil of dividing the work of government into many isolated and self-dependent sections, each pursuing its own ends and blowing its own trumpet. These units thus develop the tendency of being independent units. They cease considering themselves as parts of a bigger whole and thus consider their own little empires as ends in themselves.
Corruption is the malady of most democracies, Indian bureaucracy being no execution. It has gone into the very root of the bureaucratic structure. Indian democracy has also inherited from the Britisher’s corrupt practices.
The civil services are in general prone to illegal extortion of money from the people before doing their work. In the USA spoil system still prevails though after the passage of the Pendleton Act, 1883 it has been substantially curtailed.
The top bureaucrats who are political favorites become perfect yesmen of their political bosses. They, in their turn, expect yesmanship from their subordinate officers. Thus a sort of vicious circle sets in. Right or wrong, the boss must be supported.
Such a yes-man ship is eroding the efficiency and lowering the morale of straightforward honest employees who do not wrongly toe the line of the high ups—political or non-political and are made to suffer by wrong placements or frequent transfers.
- Officiousness and Trail:
Civil servants are after all mortals. They have defects and weaknesses typical of human nature. Each man loves his own brief moment of authority. A public servant attempts to make his public office yield private gain or uses his power to confer unfair advantage on some special group, of course under pressure.
- Self Perpetuating:
There is no gainsaying the fact that the defects mentioned above are there in the bureaucratic system. But the objections to a bureaucracy “are due not to the existence of a permanent civil service highly organized in the hierarchical system but to the location of the supreme power over this system.”
If the supreme power is located in the hands of a king or dictator he may use civil servants to secure the attainment of his ends. In a subject country also the ruling power may use the bureaucracy to serve its ends as was done in India by British Government.
But if the supreme power is located in the people, the civil servants cannot be unresponsive to their needs and dictatorial in attitude towards them.
Bureaucrats in independent India are by and large serving the nation and serving them very well.
They should get the praise where it is due and should not be unnecessarily criticized. In a modern age bureaucracy is a necessity and its outright condemnation is irrational; of course, the system should be so built as to avoid unnecessary delay, red-tapism, and formalism and checks should be so devised that bureaucrats may remain true servants of the people.
Bureaucracy has been rightly considered like ‘fire’ which is invaluable as a servant but ruinous when it becomes the master. Therefore it is desirable to examine the safeguards which are necessary for keeping it under proper control without sacrificing its virtues so that public interest may be best served.
Man for man and woman for woman, there is not now and there never has been any reason for believing them to be different from their fellow citizens who are self-employed or work in private industry. The bureaucracy is now so numerous that no citizen can indict it without indicting the nation itself.