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Jan
12

One Legitimate Barrier To Removing Government Red Tape and Streamlining Government

Ask any citizen or government employee what most aggravates them about dealing with government, and you’ll get a few common answers. One of the most common is that government requires so much red tape that getting anything done is time consuming and annoying. Yes, even government employees feel this way. There’s the forms, and multiple approvals, and rule upon rule, and it seems the larger the government, the worse it is.

Government is aware of the problem and has committed to streamlining a number of government processes, but few people, in and out of government understand WHY government has so much red tape and is so darned bureaucratic.

Checks and Balances In Government

Most citizens are taught that our government systems are based on a checks and balances system to make sure that no specific arm of government can make decisions not in the best interests of the country. That’s why we have legislative, judicial and executive functions. It’s a pretty sound concept, and one has only to compare “less democratic” countries to western democracies to see the difference.

However, most people don’t realize that the checks and balances system operates within the public service, too. Within even a single branch or organization, there will be several layers of approval and audit, and that’s there to apply checks and balances so that no ONE person has significant control over decision making. It’s all about reducing corruption in government, and it’s a main reason why things take so long, forms have seven copies.

The History

It wasn’t always this way. In the not so distant past, and particularly in local governments, politicians and their handpicked civil servants had incredible individual power, since there were no significant checks on their behavior. The Tammany Hall syndrome in New York is a good example of the problem, going onwards into the 1960’s. Corruption, patronage, and waste of taxpayers money was the norm, simply because power was concentrated in the hands of a very few.

Eventually government evolved its red tape and checks and balances systems to limit the power of both politicians, and their appointees, (and employees). Of course, the price is a clumsy, slow moving decision making government apparatus that drives us nuts.

In addition, the hiring process for government is also a morass of rules and regulations that drive both HR staff and applicants absolutely around the bend. That too is to reduce the possibility that government jobs will be given out as rewards, or to hire people of only one political stripe.

So, the next time you mutter about how much government red tape there is, remember this: The less red tape, the more likelihood tax dollars will be spent badly due to corruption and influence peddling.

Certainly government needs to continue to streamline and cut the hassles, but there are significant limits to how far it can go. No doubt there’s still room for some improvement, but democratic governments will never eliminate all the checks and balances, since it’s an intrinsic part of our democracy.

1 comment

  1. FedUpWithSnottyService says:

    Ain’t buying it. I’ve fed up with civil servants who don’t even care enough to look at me when I talk to them. Like at the driver licensing branch. I feel like they treat me like a criminal. Is it that bloody hard?

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