Power In All The Wrong Hands

I’m still rather tied up, so I thought as a bit of a change of pace,  I’d direct you to a rather marvellous article from the von Mises Institute: The Seven Rules of Bureaucracy. Had me in stitches at several points, as it’s just so applicable. Almost as if it were plucked from the scripts of Yes, Minister as above. Go have a read and let me know what you think. I’m out woodcutting today, but I’ll stick my head in a bit later on.

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30 Responses to Power In All The Wrong Hands

  1. meltemian says:

    How right you are, it’s recognisable and accurate on so many fronts.
    I do occasionally wonder how all these “problems” still keep getting worse even though all the money thrown at them should have them eradicated by now shouldn’t it??

    Aye, Mel: the problem must be maintained. For instance, if the science of CAGW really is “settled”, shouldn’t all that expensive publicly-funded research be shut down forthwith? Oz

  2. izen says:

    @- meltemian says:
    “I do occasionally wonder how all these “problems” still keep getting worse even though all the money thrown at them should have them eradicated by now shouldn’t it??”

    The sort of ‘problem’ that generates a bureaucracy at the civic governance level to ‘solve’ are not eradicable in that sense.

    An example may illustrate this.
    Historically cities that reached populations of around 10,000 hit a problem with the requirements for clean water and human waste disposal. The population density would exceed the local springs, wells and rivers to supply or cope with the clean water and sewage removal. For the many cities built on rivers the first step is to regulate where effluent is discharged, and water collected, ensuring that the latter is upstream of the former.

    But large scale distribution and disposal systems are required to maintain the health and viability of a city that far exceed the requirements of an individual, and far exceed the ability of an individual to establish. The problem of the water supply and waste disposal of a city generates a bureaucracy to solve it. But the only way to eradicate the problem would be to disperse people from the city and reduce the population density to a level that local resources can manage. To maintain and increase the size of a city the problem of the collective requirement for clean water and waste disposal has to be solved by a collective act of management.
    The bureaucracy manages the solution to the problem, but that success will increase the size and population of a city further (they don’t get decimated by cholera every summer!) which will require a further increase in the complexity and resources used to cope with the demand. that requires more management – bureaucracy – at greater cost for smaller return.

    Bureaucracy is an inevitable emergent structure in human societies. as soon as humans act collectively and generate problems at a communal level then supra-individual management structures will arise to solve the problem, without having to abandon the collective behaviour, such as living in a city.

    Of course the ‘Yes Minister’ and Von Mises essay portray the inherent pitfalls of bureaucracy in all their humorous absurdity. But that is the nature of emergent complex systems. they exhibit extra complexities of behaviour not apparent or predictable from the actions, aims or intentions of their component parts. So Bureaucracies have self-preservation and expansion characteristics, along with the fundamental feature that they start small with the easy and cheap solutions to the initial problems, but have to tackle increasingly expensive and difficult problems where the cost of management, however efficient, increases at a greater rate than the gains from organisation.

    Some of the examples that the Von Mises piece highlights are not specific to bureaucracies, but are features of governance and the exercise of power. They are failings of the political system committed by all shades of ideology and the involvement of bureaucracy is coincidental (bureaucracies are how governments act) rather than causative.
    The true inherencies of bureaucracies can be deduced from the common features that arise in bureaucracies that emerge in large private businesses. As the Dilbert cartoons portray the toxic effects of bureaucracies that become self-perpetuating, and ever-growing parasites on their hosts is not confined to political authority. All human organisations have a tendency to grow the management system beyond efficient need, look at the banking industry or the catholic church….

    Collective bureaucracies are the inevitable reaction to the resource management problems caused by collective behaviour. Eventually that includes the societal problem of top-heavy bureaucracies, and the other toxic tendencies that such systems potentially generate.
    The next problem to solve is often the one created by the solution to the last problem….

    Just because bureaucracy is an imperfect, and inherently problematic way of solving problems in resource management does not mean that it can be eliminated, or even reduced in complexity without abandoning the greater diversity and magnitude of resources that people collectively require. Advocating the removal of bureaucracy without recognising that would also require a return to the simple agrarian, neolithic existence and abandonment of city/civic society is dishonest.

    Bureaucracies have been described as the mistletoe on human society.
    Its more like fire. its use is necessary (and inevitable) to achieve certain ends, but you have to be aware of its dangers and tendency to spread, remembering that doing without is impossible, but care is needed to avoid getting burnt.

  3. Luton Ian says:

    Hi Izen,

    you are falling foul (pun intended) of a common logical fallacy.

    Everyone has to have a father,

    That does not imply that one, very busy, man is everyone’s father.

    rather than a single bureaucracy (which would obviously be very keen to justify its parasitic existence with such fallacies), it simply requires the water carriers and the night soil carriers to observe the simple relationship, that customers with cholera, don’t pay their bills.

    Night soil generally made its way to the fields rather than to the river, and all of the pioneering work on water supply and transportation in the current civilization, was by individuals. There are some excellent examples here http://direct.mises.org/daily/5932/Overlegislation , along with Smith’s geological map of Britain and :

    “The often quoted contrast between the Academy whose forty members took 56 years to compile the French dictionary, while Dr. Johnson alone compiled the English one in eight — a contrast still marked enough after making due set-off for the difference in the works — is by no means without parallel.”

  4. Luton Ian says:

    I’ve a short essay brewing which sets out how government and bureaucracy facilitate and provide forums in which Hobbesian wars of all upon all can be cultivated, all the while, claiming that their aim is to prevent such conflicts.

  5. Luton Ian says:

    Thinking about the French dictionary example, and Dr Johnson’s at least five hundred fold greater productivity…

  6. izen says:

    “For instance, if the science of CAGW really is “settled”, shouldn’t all that expensive publicly-funded research be shut down forthwith? Oz”

    Two things, settled science does not mean nothing left to learn.
    Evolutionary genetics is ‘settle science’ – there are no new discoveries that would overthrow the present state of knowledge, but there is still more to learn about the detail and behavior under various conditions.

    Second, most climate research is very cheap. No expensive atom-smashers or costly biochemicals required.
    The one exception is satellite data. When denialists cite the ‘billions’ spent on ‘climate research’ they are usually including all the satellite costs. But often the observations used in climate research are also used in weather and resource forcasting and management. The gains from that far outweigh the satellte costs.

  7. izen says:

    @- FB

    It would seem to sum up the present political/business attitude to the financial crisis that the paying off banks and finance/hedge funds takes priority over paying for health and education.

  8. Dr. Dave says:


    Climate science is incredibly expensive. Sure, the satellites are expensive and you are correct in that serve multiple functions. But those banks and banks of supercomputers ain’t cheap. Although they could obtain output which is just as meaningful from a Play Station or an X-Box. The Argo system is blindingly expensive. Radiosondes are not cheap by any measure. The individual ground station instruments are surprisingly expensive (as is the data collection). Then one has to consider all the other little costs that every government agency or large university just can’t function without (e.g. vehicles, aircraft, boats, ships, etc.) I’m sure laboratory instruments that measure isotope ratios and isolate and characterize air bubbles trapped ice aren’t cheap. Expeditions are extremely expensive. But far and away the single greatest expense is wages and salaries. Grants pay for most of this and it’s no small expense. In fact, it is the single greatest expense.

    About 20 years ago I sat on an advisory board of a 400 bed hospital. They employed about 1,000 (and comparatively few were physicians back in those days). They were the best hospital in the region and they had all the latest, greatest equipment (e.g. CT scanners, MRI scanners, lab equipment, computer systems, nuclear med, lithotripter, etc.). Far and away the single most expensive line item was wages and benefits…by a LOT. And these were not mostly Ph.D.s. There were some physicians and some rather well paid health professionals like specialty nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists, but most were nurses, nursing assistants, pharmacy techs, lab techs, business office types, medical records, housekeepers, maintenance personnel, security personnel, groundskeepers, etc. Even 20 years ago the wages and benefits cost the hospital about $70 million a year for just one hospital. Extrapolate this expense to every government agency and every university “environmental studies” program that lives on government grants and the price tag is astronomical.

  9. Dr. Dave says:


    You ask a very good question. If this “climate science” issue is, indeed, “settled science” why do we continue to squander fortunes on this pseudo-science mythology every year? I’m not buying the “we can always learn more” line of BS. I can’t remember where I read this, probably at WUWT, but the author made a very astute observation. WUWT has a very eclectic and erudite readership and the comments were really fascinating. The author pointed out that the entire AGW meme and all the associated specious “climate science” has not changed appreciably in over 20 years. It continues to be the same old story. Oh, they’ve spiced it up a bit lately by factoring in nonsense like ocean acidification and loss of biodiversity and my own personal favorite, “more extreme weather events.” But it is basically the same crap we heard over 20 years ago. How many fields of science have remained essentially unchanged for over 20 years?

    This is where the comments became interesting. Virtually no other field of science has remained static or entrenched in dogma for over 20 years. A myriad of examples were given – aerospace, computers, manufacturing, engineering, chemistry, bioengineering, electronics, communications, medicine, etc. No…just climate science continues to try to prove an already falsified theory – at great expense to the public. The “climate issue” quit being a scientific debate many years ago. Today it almost entirely political and financial.

  10. Kitler says:

    Luton Ian nice find opened my eyes to how long we have had incompetent government.

  11. izen says:

    @- Dr. Dave says:
    “The author pointed out that the entire AGW meme and all the associated specious “climate science” has not changed appreciably in over 20 years. It continues to be the same old story. …”

    Not even close.
    The basic theory, that GHGs including CO2 warm the climate is roughly contemporaneous with Darwins’ theory of evolution. The theory that industrial releases of CO2 would warm the climate dates back to around the 1890s. A full quantitative theory emerged in the 1930s and the final objection to the theory was overturned in the mid 1950s when the buffering chemistry of the oceans was understood and direct measurement revealed the increase in atmospheric CO2 from industrial production.

    The basic theory was in place a century ago, it took another fifty years before the various objections to the theory were refuted.


    @- “The “climate issue” quit being a scientific debate many years ago. Today it almost entirely political and financial.”

    Very true, but not in quite the way you mean I suspect. -grin-

  12. Kitler says:

    Izen which of Darwin’s theory’s are you referring to and also which Darwin?

  13. izen says:

    Charles, Origin of species by natural selection.

    Morning Izen,

    Following on from Dave’s comments, atmospheric temperature sensitivity to CO2 concentration has not substantially changed since IPCC AR1 in 1990. Feel like going around again? Oz

  14. izen says:

    “…atmospheric temperature sensitivity to CO2 concentration has not substantially changed since IPCC AR1 in 1990. ”

    It hasn’t changed much since Svante Arrhenius estimated around 4-5 degC for a doubling/halving of CO2 in 1896.

    @”Feel like going around again? Oz”

    Not on the science, that is basically settled.
    That just leaves the political and financial aspects.
    If anyone has coherent policy responses to the problem it might be interesting to hear them. But the same old denialist nonsense on the science front would be tedious.

    Thank you for your Arrhenius-scented confirmation. Yes, the raw science (the physics and chemistry, at any rate) is settled, on all sides. Just not quite in the manner you appear to think.

    I’m off to bed on this side of the planet, enjoy yourselves till I return – Oz

  15. Dr. Dave says:

    In case any of you might have missed this 6 minute piece of Dr. Roy Spencer with John Stossel. It pretty much sums up the state of the modern day “denier.” Perhaps izen would like to explain how one of the world’s greatest experts in satellite sensing simply must be an idiot because he subscribes to Intelligent Design (which has nothing to do with climate or satellites).

  16. Dr. Dave says:


    It’s been a looong time since I took physics in college. I was surprised that I actually loved the class and had the top grade both semesters…but we’re talkin’ about 35 years ago. In the following years I went on to study very different fields of science. As an aside I loved physics and organic chemistry relative to human gross anatomy. Comparative vertebrate morphology and human gross anatomy sucked because it was purely an exercise in memorization. You can’t use logic or reasoning in those exams – you either had it memorized or you didn’t. But other classes were quite interesting, like pharmacology, human physiology, pathology, clinical medicine, medical microbiology, biochemistry, etc. In these courses you had to employ both memorization as well as reason and critical thinking. When I got out of school I fancied myself a “scientist”. In reality I was merely a well trained practitioner with a “Dr.” before my name. In the long run this may have proven to be a more valuable attribute as practitioners have to rely more heavily on critical thinking and direct interpretation of the primary literature.

    I don’t think I ever even heard of global warming until about 1990 or 1991. I was working three jobs at the time (a full time position at the hospital, a consulting gig and a teaching position). I didn’t have cable or satellite TV. I was busy with lots of other aspects of life. I moved to NM in 1995 and I believe it was about this time that I first paid attention to “global warming’ (as I had cable TV and my girlfriend lived in Amarillo). Shucks, it all made sense. It was such a simple message and there was a pretty straightforward explanation. It was a compelling argument. But I largely ignored it for probably another 10 years because so many other aspects of life took precedence. About 2005 I became interested in the AGW issue. After a bit reading I noticed that my inherent BS detector was going off the charts. I should point out that in 2005 I didn’t spend much time on political blogs and I didn’t listen to ANY talk radio and scant little FOX news. I was curious so I started reading everything I could find. By 2007 I was convinced that the CAGW scam was mostly political nonsense. It is just as Professor Richard Lindzen recently described, “science in the service of politics.”

    But to reiterate Ozboy’s comments, the alarmist community and the IPCC hasn’t really changed their polemic in over 20 years. They haven’t proven a damn thing. They have computer models and certainly no dearth of specious theories, but they don’t have a shred of empiric evidence. The IPCC still clings to the assertion that CO2 is THE primary driver of climate. Of the billions that have spent on this scam almost nothing has been awarded to scientists to determine the extent and nature of natural variability. And of course the very same crap has come out of the IPCC for over 20 years – unrealistic climate sensitivity. Off the top of my head I can name at least a half dozen major paradigm shifts in medicine in the last 25 years. But even in medicine some BS remains firmly entrenched due to government involvement. One of my favorites is that daily salt intake determines the likelihood for the development of hypertension. I learned this as immutable truth while in school. For years I blindly accepted it. Turns out this assertion was, like AGW, based on some pretty specious science. Another fine example is described in this article in today’s American Thinker:


  17. Kitler says:

    Dr Dave so the whole cholesterol thing and low fat diets was total bollox, it probably explains why everyone has gotten so fat. I went back to eating butter about 4 years ago.

  18. farmerbraun says:

    Izen, given the number of possible causes of a putative warming , how can you state that elevated atmospheric CO2 is the only possible cause?

  19. farmerbraun says:

    Kitler, butter from grass-fed cows, preferably from farms using no nitrogen fertiliser. And grass-fed lamb, obviously. Omega acids are important.

  20. Kitler says:

    farmerbraun I make sure I get kippers every so often to get my Omega acids but I prefer grass fed lamb and cattle they taste better than grain fed.

  21. Ozboy says:

    Sort of OT but had to share this, particularly with Dave and Tucci. Obama’s lawyer tries to justify ObamaCare in the Supreme Court. If it ain’t broke…

  22. Dr. Dave says:


    The SCOTUS show has had top ratings here in the US. It’s been over 50 years since the Court has set aside three days to hear oral arguments about any case. I can’t understand how this could be even remotely interesting to anyone outside the US. Folks in the UK, OZ and Canada have had state-run socialized medicine for years and years. We (currently) only have about 40-50% direct government intrusion into the delivery of healthcare. I’ll comment some more later.

    I’ve told you before, Dave: when the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. That’s the reason why foreigners like me have a level of interest in American politics that (for example) you would never have in Australian political affairs. I grew up listening to uninterrupted U.S. regional accents on television, which as an adult I have replicated as a professional voice-over; I’m an honorary Texan, as my sister lives there and is a naturalized American citizen. How much Aussie TV did you grow up watching? That’s the explanation in brief, though I’m more than willing to expand if you wish – Oz

  23. Kitler says:

    DrDave it’s not socialized medicine that people care about a surprising number would opt for that in a heart beat, it’s all the nasty stuff that’s buried in the bill that scares people and we are talking giving the government the right to “after birth abortions” up to the age of 14 and yes it’s in the bill buried across multiple pages cross referenced.

  24. Dr. Dave says:


    Perhaps your sneeze analogy is an apt one in this case. One of the casualties that would most certainly affect the entire world if ObamaCare should be declared constitutional and subsequently not repealed is medical innovation. It’s far more than just pharmaceuticals but they are the most visible manifestation. US drug companies developed most of the drugs on the US market today. Big drug companies from the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden perform a huge amount of their research in the US (and do a huge amount of their business here, too). India and Israel produce a lot of pharmaceuticals but they are almost exclusively generic versions of other drugs. Did you know that Canada used to develop quite a few new drugs back in the 60s and 70s. The number of drugs they developed dropped off precipitously after their nationalized healthcare went into effect. I’m certainly not implying that the US is the primary source for all or even most medical innovation…not anymore, but a very large country that spends generously on healthcare is a big boost to innovators in other countries. Once marketplace competition is eliminated or severely attenuated (i.e. via single payer systems) innovation and quality always suffers.

    The US healthcare system is rife with problems but ObamaCare is clearly NOT the solution. Most of the problems with the US healthcare system are actually caused by governmental intrusion (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, excessive regulation). Much of the cost inflation is the product of the 3rd party payer paradigm and the concept of comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive health insurance isn’t really insurance, it’s largely pre-paid medical care. I could go on and on with a laundry list of everything that’s wrong with our system and ways to correct it. My solutions, however, are very unpopular with politicians and health insurance concerns. We have gross over-utilization of healthcare resources in the US largely because of Medicare, Medicaid and little-or-no co-pay employer provided comprehensive healthcare insurance.

    But the 2,700 page ObamaCare law is based on a pile of lies. No one is denied ACCESS to healthcare in this country. I once listened to a lecture by a relatively young surgeon. A homeless, unemployed bugler broke into an intercity apartment. The owner came home and he fled through a window. He didn’t quite clear his jump and ended up impaled through the abdomen on a fence. This surgeon (with no possible hope for remuneration) saved the life of this POS. He had to patch up and reconstruct a lot of this guy’s guts. When you stab through the gut lots of nasty stuff spills into the abdomen. The aforementioned POS was in surgery many times and for MANY hours and in the ICU for many weeks healing up and being treated for infection. Funny thing about expensive, intravenous broad spectrum antimicrobials…they kill damn near all pathogenic bacteria but not fungi. This POS developed a fungal infection for which he was treated. He got out of the hospital and immediately found a lawyer. He sued (successfully) the surgeon who had saved his life (without compensation) because he developed a fungal infection! Now, to be fair this was a symposium sponsored by Pfizer and the obvious take-home message was that practitioners should not be shy about using fluconazole prophylactically (which is still BS). But what stuck with me is that the surgeon’s med-mal insurer rolled over and settled and the POS was paid a handsome settlement just because the surgeon who saved his life failed to accurately predict every possible outcome. Drug companies have been notoriously reckless in promoting often unnecessary prophylaxis, but their message is driven by medico-legal liability rather clinical best practices. Interestingly there is not a whiff of tort reform anywhere in the ObamaCare law. Hell, it was written by lawyers and for lawyers. But it’s a myth that ANYONE is denied healthcare in the US. Further, health insurance has almost nothing to do with ACCESS to healthcare in this country

    The Progressive Left in this country has lusted after centralized government control of healthcare since the days of FDR. By virtue of JFK having his head blown off in Dallas on 11/22/63 LBJ was able to foist Medicare and Medicaid on the nation. Control of healthcare provides incredible control over the population. This is particularly true of those who have become dependent upon it. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon up close and personal. .Quite simply, ObamaCare would utterly wreck the American healthcare system. I’m not a climate scientist, but I am a healthcare professional. I’ve worked in this industry for over 30 years. This is something I know and am familiar with from many different angles. By now the Supreme Court has already made their decision. We won’t know about it until about June, but my guess is that it was found to be unconstitutional.

    Oh…I remember seeing Skippy on TV and when I was very young there was an Australian series that I believe was set in the Outback. All I can remember is that it was in B&W and it featured kids who communicated with other kids and their parents via 2-way radio. This was VERY cool when I was about 8 years old. My Dad was a ham and kids were strictly forbidden from even touching his ham gear. I’m always amazed at how much American TV crap finds its way to other countries. We get some British crap TV here, but I just don’t watch it (although my sister and niece do). Even with the internet it’s hard to find Australian TV. I hate to think that my country is exporting “stupid” throughout the world.

    Fear not on that last point Dave; television doesn’t come much stupider than Neighbours – Oz

  25. Ozboy says:

    More U.S. jollies: Has Rick Santorum just done in his whole presidential campaign with a single, ill-considered syllable?

  26. Kitler says:

    Well I can say one thing about the medical profession how the effin heck do you let slip through sociopaths/serial killers with a God complex into the profession as well as numerous quacks whose talent with medicine is worse than my own and I can not claim to be anything close to an expert.
    While doctor Dave can produce numerous examples of doctors wrongly sued the other side of the fence is unnecessary surgeries carried out purely for money, experimental surgery done on the fly that ultimately kills the patient or actual outright murders because that playing with someones life is too tempting.
    However I agree Tort reform is necessary along with good psychological testing before they allow anyone into med school or politics.

  27. izen says:

    Ozboy says:-
    “Fear not on that last point Dave; television doesn’t come much stupider than Neighbours – Oz ”

    I always regarded Neighbours as the Dickens to Home and Away’s Mills and Boon….

    And then there was Prisoner: Cell block H ! -grin-

    A connoisseur of the yartz, I see – Oz 😉

  28. izen says:

    @- Dr Dave
    With your insider knowledge you predict healthcare apocalypse and medical R&D armageddon if Obamacare is imposed. I would admit that I have not followed the argument in the US over healthcare reform. My first impression was that political constraints limited the changes to deck-chair moving rather than any radical change. Leaving aside the issue of the extension of government regulation of the private provision healthcare I fail to see any changes that would affect the system by more than a few percent.

    The US and UK government healthcare systems take about the same percentage of the national wealth per head by various forms of taxation. Because the US population and GNP is larger that is a bigger ‘pot’ of money to fund R&D and pay for its products. But the US healthcare system almost doubles the total percentage of the GNP that is devoted to healthcare by having a private sector provision. Perhaps it should be a matter of American pride that such a large percentage of the wealth of the Nation is spent on medical care of its citizens. It is surely a more admirable social characteristic than spending it on tombs and monuments for its rulers.

    It is this double dose of the GNP that finances the higher level of medical research and consumption of its products in the US. Unless I am missing something about Obamacare I don’t see how it will significantly change the amount of money, the percentage of the GNP, that the US puts into healthcare.
    It seems unlikely that whatever the regulatory changes, private enterprise will be unable to evolve a response that maintains the percentage of GNP it commands at present, or that there is likely to be a major reduction in government funding.

  29. Ozboy says:

    Still very tied up with work, so here’s something on the recent Queensland election:


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