Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21: Is Norbert a communist?

He may not be. It may just seem that way as a result of his sloppy use of words. (In a minor example today, he used the ugly word "gotten" as the past tense for "to get".  In fact, gotten is an American slang word that has found its way into some dictionaries. The correct past tense for "to get" is "got".)

It becomes a bigger problem when Norbert does not understand the meaning of a word that is his major target for a rant. I use "rant" here because of his column's constant attacks on what he calls "bureaucracy", another word he does not understand.

Bureaucracy, meaning that part of government operated by hired rather than elected officials, has always been a source of popular annoyance and even hatred - even all the way back to ancient times when appointed bureaucrats administered governments for kings and pharaohs. It has always been a source of annoyance for the general public, and so a popular target for  columnists.

In "Das Kapital", Karl Marx's dream of the perfect, communist society would come true when people learned to cooperate willingly for the common good, and government bureacrats would cease to exist. So Norbert and Karl have something in common. They both express their hatred of government by directing that hatred at a group associated with government.

However, both are more than a little simplistic in their thinking.

In the first place, bureaucracy is not restricted to government. In modern times it began in the seventeenth century with kings like Louis XIV who realized that the counts and dukes who had been looking after the administration of the country were hopelessly incompetent. They got the jobs and power only because they were born as dukes and counts. (Does that remind you of anybody in today's world? Here in New Brunswick?)

They were so imcompetent that Louis - and other kings - turned to middle class people of education and ability to run their administrations. These were the first, modern bureaucrats.

Then - and note this well, Norbert, private business copied the government system. Yes. Though we use the word bureaucrats to refer only to government administrators, bureaucracy is also the system of administration for private business and, in fact, for armies as well as all organizations of any size.

Indeed, and though the Norberts of this world seem to forget it, the Canadian civil service was so effective in World War II that private business, for some years after the war, sent its rising executives to Ottawa to study civil service methods. But Norbert does not appear to know even that a private business bureaucracy exists.

Any large organization - private or government (or a newspaper) - needs trained people to administer it. Does Norbert have some alternative system? Or does he, like Marx, think we should all live in love and brotherhood so we would not need government at all?

The problem we face in this province is not that we have bureaucracies. The problem is that we have a non-bureaucrat of no particular training or wisdom who interferes in government like a baron of the fourteenth century, simply assuming he has the right to do so because he was born a baron.

What we  have seen lately is a model of private business bureaucracy forced on our government bureaucracy. And it won't work. Private bureaucracy is designed to benefit the company without any obligation to the people, to the society as a whole. Government bureaucracy is designed to benefit the society as a whole - without obligation to the baron.

When you try to force a private business model on a government, what you get is a health minister like Flemming who is making a hash of out health care. He has hired bureaucrats trained in the business style. His prime objective is not to serve people, but to cut costs, whatever damage that may do to people and to the health care system. The proof? He claimed to want better efficiency. Okay. If that's what you want, you begin with an examination of existing efficiency to see where it can be improved, and where savings can be made. Flemming didn't do that.

He began with a demand for cuts. That's the business model. Who gives a damn about people?

The result of imposing such a model on us is destroy essential services because, in the end, the bureaucracy of the business model has no obligation to people.

All the letters to the editor this day are well worth reading.
I mention only Norbert and the letters to the editor because nothing else in today's paper merits discussion.

I could wish the TandT would find a foreign news editor who knows something about foreign news. We are quite possibly facing something quite terrible in the Middle East, something that is largely our (western) doing. The war in Syria is spinning out of control, a spin that could carry it far beyond the Middle East. You would never guess that from reading the TandT.


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