To define bureaucracy is to specify how society is ruled. Neither a dictator nor a popularly elected government are the real rulers of society. Both despotic and democratic government systems depend upon a bureaucracy. It is clear that the policies set out as principles by governments could not be broadcast to, enforced upon or accepted by society by the efforts of these rulers acting alone. The idea that one or a dozen or even a score of men could impose their will upon many thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of citizens is almost laughable. With the aid of a bureaucracy the enforcement of rules and the subjugation of many is perfectly possible. The model is usually of the "carrot and stick" variety. We define bureaucracy by reference to those given "official" but not "ruling" status in an administration.
(Before we define bureaucracy further please note that this link will take you to an invitation below where you will be able to help many fellow retirees and be published on this site.)
Rulers have policies defined and set out as laws. These laws provide the parameters within which society is supposed to live. The minutiae of the broad principles of the law is usually set out in regulation form by experts in various fields of endeavor. These areas of the administration are separated into departments the organization of which stretches from the few experts to many more junior ranks who apply the regulations when individual members of society make reference to them. In short, the public apply to government departments for their needs to run their lives. The departments provide what is required to the extent the law permits in exchange for obedience to procedures. The "carrot"of daily necessities is available for compliance with rules with the "stick" of sanctions available to the authorities. This is how we begin to define bureaucracy.
The government departments are the bureaucracy. They are meritocracies wherein career advancement is based upon knowledge and length of service. Public needs are separated into many areas, such as police, social welfare, education, health care and many others. Members of the public apply for their needs in the first instance to the most junior members of a department. At this level the civil servant has no discretion. The junior officer simply applies the regulations. It is at this level that the bureaucracy attracts the description of being autocratic, uncaring, and non-reactive to an individual's needs, which for all are different, although usually only in small ways.
A retiree seeking residence abroad must deal with many government departments often in many countries. The "social welfare" and "statistical" departments from which personal history documents such as birth, marriage or death certificates and divorce records are obtained are often easy to deal with. Unfortunately the modern trend of "user pays" principles means that little is provided free of charge. It is necessary to give officials the full and correct details for the appropriate document to be produced.
The retiree will also have to make reference to the departments of coercion, the police and immigration authorities, for some requirements necessary to prosecute a residence visa application. Often these sections of the bureaucracy have fixed and stern ideas about the extent of their own authority and the degree to which they should cooperate with "clients". It can be very frustrating to have to deal with all departments especially when it is a person's own future that is dependent upon getting answers from these organizations. Matters are exacerbated when different governments apply time restrictions which are recognized only by themselves. A further complication is the differing standards of performance by civil services across nations.
The invitation below is for you to tell us and all other pending retirees of your greatest difficulties in dealing with bureaucracies, how you overcame them, of your funniest and darkest moments and your most inventive resolutions to problems. Your comments will be published on this site and you will certainly help many others.
Do bureaucracies terrify you? How would you define a bureaucracy? What was your worst experience in dealing with one? How did you win eventually? Describe your funniest moment with a bureaucracy? What was your most inventive solution to a bureaucratic problem? Your answers, published here, will help many others.
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