The Corner

The Trouble With Bureaucracies

What do TWA, Woolworth’s and Oldsmobile have in common? All were once major brands. All lost their edge and eventually got crushed by the competition.

But it is not just corporations that get old, slow and unproductive. The same thing happens to bureaucracies – even more so since they have few means to reward high achieving employees and punish underachievers; also bureaucracies generally have no competitors, and competitors can keep corporations on their toes.

When bureaucracies become sclerotic, they don’t go out of business. They simply fail to do the job they are expected to do. When caught in this position, they generally complain that they have been under-funded (“Give us more money and we’ll do better!”) Then they generally get rearranged, with complex new organizational charts and, often, new layers of bureaucratic management.

Such reorganizations may help. Or they may hurt. Or they may do nothing at all. Clearly, putting FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security accomplished nothing of value.

Is the reorganization of the Intelligence Community accomplishing anything? I hope there are some inquiring minds in Congress who are doing the hard work required to figure that out.

In any case, where both floods and terrorism are concerned, the priority should be on preventing catastrophes, not preparing to deal with the carnage and destruction that follow after the catastrophes occur. <a href="

“>My Scripps Howard column this week gives this idea further examination.

Clifford D. May — Clifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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