Usually I don’t mix business with pleasure, business being my academics and pleasure being blogging (currently). But like all my habitual exceptions, I will circumvent this self-imposed rule just for the pure pleasure of sharing the fun I am having. Bureaucracy is always thought of a massive, mismanaged machinery churning out sub-optimal outcomes and we tend to chance upon more than our share of bureaucratic horror stories recounted by horrified citizens. We have come to expect so little from our political rulers and public managers that we tend to overlook the impressive work they often are capable of. A bureaucrat has a thankless job and pops up in the public eye only when he/she messes up and often the sensationalist media exaggerates beyond belief to project a royal screw-up. Notable achievements include the Indian railway network, economic reforms program in recent years in India, the US Postal service, the Social Security Administration also in the US. But sometimes the media has their scoop handed on a platter. Before we even point fingers at our Indian babus, let us cast a glance at our western counterparts. No one is perfect. I am listing just a few of the outstanding gems of bureaucratic ineptness, all from the US. These are the things that make studying seemingly-dull public management, fun. Enjoy !!!
A Chicago woman undergoing chemotherapy for cancer of the breast applied for Medicare. She received a computer-produced letter indicating that she was ineligible since she had died the the previous April.
A chronic alcoholic was arrested and mistaken for another man. When he protested, his claims of misidentification were diagnosed as paranoia and schizophrenia, and he was committed to a mental hospital.
The Department of Energy set out to declassify millions of documents inherited from the Atomic Energy Commission. Eight of the released documents contained the basic design principles for the hydrogen bomb.
A unit of what is now the Department of Health and Human Services sent fifteen chimpanzees to a Texas laboratory for the purpose of launching a chimp-breeding program. All were males.
Source: Goodsell, Charles T. “The Case for Bureaucracy”, Chatam House Publishers, NJ, 1983