Michael’s lament about endless bureaucratic hours wasted on totally unnecessary paper pushing is a beautiful example of government’s astonishing inefficiency. Multiply this by tens of thousands of other programs and procedures throughout the federal government empire and you have serious money being wasted.
And, barring a miracle (or a major war), it will continue to be wasted as there is no mechanism to correct it. Monopolies are always inefficient in this way, and governments are always monopolies. In profit-seeking companies in competitive markets, competition forces companies to look endlessly for ways to cut costs, for a penny saved is a penny earned. The corporate executive who finds a way to cut costs by, say, ten percent, is a hero. A government bureaucrat who does that is a goat. Bureaucrats measure their status not by the size of their profits, but by the size of their budgets and their staff. The last thing they want to do is cut out unnecessary procedures and forms that enlarge both budget and staff.
One way to change that culture, of course, would be to make it in the interest of the bureaucrats to change their ways by changing their incentives. If cutting out an outdated procedure would save the government, say, $1 million, why not give the first year’s savings to the personnel in the office who made the reform? A bureaucrat who found a $50,000 bonus showing up in his paycheck would be powerfully motivated to find other ways to save money and so would his colleagues in other offices around the world.
But absent such an incentive, nothing will happen.