The word bureaucracy isn’t one that typically conjures up emotion. When most Americans think of bureaucracy, they imagine the frustrations seen around the country in virtually every Post Office. Bureaucracy isn’t something most people care a ton about – and why would they? It’s a boring word that most people don’t even know the definition of. For those of you who weren’t informed, or just need a refresher –
bu·reauc·ra·cy – noun – a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
It doesn’t just result in inept government officials making mistakes with your mail, your passport, or your driver’s license. Bureaucracy has devastating effects on people’s lives. Instead of being served directly by those we elect, we are served by unaccountable government employees who couldn’t care less about who their REAL bosses are – we the people.
The ultimate problem with bureaucracy was first widely recognized by Dr Max Gammon. Gammon was concerned about the effects of Britain’s National Health Service in the mid 20th century, and began studying the effects of having bureaucrats running health care. In a 1976 report, Dr Gammon wrote,
“The [National Health Service] brought centralized state financing and control of delivery to virtually all medical services in the country. The voluntary system of financing and delivery of medical care which had been developed in Britain over the preceding 200 years was almost entirely eliminated. The existing compulsory system was reorganized and made practically universal….
“No new hospitals were in fact built in Britain during the first thirteen years of the National Health Service and there are now, in 1976, fewer hospital beds in Britain than in July 1948 when the National Health Service took over.”
This problem with bureaucracy was eventually picked up by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, who quoted Gammon in his best selling book, “Free to Choose”. In the book, Friedman expanded this theory to other areas of government inefficiencies, noticing the problem wasn’t at all unique to healthcare. In what he called The Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement, goods and services provided by bureaucracies takes far LONGER to produce and also cost much MORE.
Unlike in the free market, where competition drives prices down, bureaucracy drives prices up, and at the same time, slows down the process. This is not just an economic problem, but can have very real effects on the lives of people who struggle with these government institutions, sometimes in life or death situations.
The case of Charlie Gard is one that comes to mind, considering the recent statement by the young child’s father. For those unfamiliar with the story, Charlie was born with a rare medical condition that left him with brain damage and organ failure. His parents were told by their hospital that it would soon be taking Charlie off of life support, so the family asked to take him to a U.S. hospital for additional treatment. The hospital resisted handing over the baby boy, and for months, his parents fought a legal battle, trying to regain the right to send their child wherever they could to save his life.
Sadly, the battle came to an end this morning, as Charlie Gard’s father told the press that they would no longer attempt to leave the country to save their baby’s life. Why? Because too much time was wasted.
“The American and the Italian team were still willing to treat Charlie, after seeing his recent brain, MRI and EEG last week but there is one simple reason why treatment can now not go ahead and that is time. A whole lot of time has been wasted. We are now in July and our poor boy has been left to just lie in hospital for months without any treatment while such lengthy court battles have been fought.”
This is the true cost of bureaucracy. It is not just the feeling of banging one’s head against the wall at the DMV. It isn’t just your mail not getting delivered. It isn’t even just trying to get crummy teachers removed from your child’s school. It is life and death, and in this case specifically – death.
I fight tirelessly against the State, and many of my arguments against government intervention fall on deaf ears because they are pure logic and rationality. Rarely do I attempt to invoke an emotional response from my audience. This is one case, where we can see with our own eyes, the true ugliness of the State. It has prevented this family from seeking the best treatment for their baby. The State killed Charlie Gard.