The growth of bureaucracy

Sometimes in this job I have a kernel of a column idea that doesn’t pan out. But other times I begin looking into a topic and find a problem so massive that I can’t believe I’ve ever written about anything else. This latter experience happened as I looked into the growing bureaucratization of American life. It’s not only that growing bureaucracies cost a lot of money; they also enervate American society. They redistribute power from workers to rule makers, and in so doing sap initiative, discretion, creativity and drive…

The growth of bureaucracy costs America over $3 trillion in lost economic output every year, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini estimated in 2016 in The Harvard Business Review. That was about 17 percent of G.D.P. According to their analysis, there is now one administrator or manager for every 4.7 employees, doing things like designing anti-harassment trainings, writing corporate mission statements, collecting data and managing “systems.”

This situation is especially grave in higher education. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology now has almost eight timesas many nonfaculty employees as faculty employees. In the University of California system, the number of managers and senior professionals swelled by 60 percent between 2004 and 2014. The number of tenure-track faculty members grew by just 8 percent.



I wonder what the unemployment rate would be without all these phony baloney made up non-job jobs?

Since when did workers have any power that could be re-distributed to rule-makers?

How does having an extra layer or layers of “Go ask your mother/father” managers cost 3 trillion out of the economy? They make more money (I would assume, as management) than workers. They don’t laminate it or feed it to gold fish. They spend it. That’s a profit for somebodies elses.

How would things be substantively different, and by that I mean better, if, instead of useless “extra bosses” we just over-hired them as extra workers?

You are being lulled by the “administrative state” narrative. There are cases before the SCOTUS that have implications for the “administrative state”. Plaintiffs complain that administrative agencies do not have authority to enact regulations, that everything must be micromanaged by Congress. Congress does not have the time, or knowledge, to micromanage everything that Congress, our elected representatives, has decided should be managed. That is why Congress creates administrative agencies, and delegates rule making power to them.

If SCOTUS holds that Congress cannot delegate rule making power, then there will be no rules. Watch the “JCs”, who constantly cry about “big gummit regulation”, start foaming at the mouth when they realize they also benefit from government rule making, which creates orderly markets for their goods and services.



Yeah, maybe we should only have 9 black robed administrators.


By a curious coincidence I was thinking about central banks’ 2% inflation goal, what it means in real, physical terms. Either the price of the item goes up or the size of the item goes down, both of which we can see in supermarkets with our own eyes.

What about a bedroom. Google says that the average American bedroom is 11 by 12 feet or 132 sq. feet.

  • Suppose I had inherited a 132 sq. foot bedroom the day I was born, 85 years ago. Suppose the bedroom shrank by 2% every year, what size would it be today? My spreadsheet says 23.7 sq. feet… Let’s check out some common items
  • King bed (76" x 80") 42.2 sq. feet. - Too big.
  • Single bed (38" x 75") 19.8 sq. feet. - Fits but you could not open the door to the inside
  • Casket (84" x 28") 16.3 sq. feet. - Fits nicely, comfy final resting place
  • By age 104 you would have to be buried in a body bag, the casket no longer fits.

The Captain
on how to materialize magic numbers

Then neither does SCOTUS, which means they will have to deal with EVERY legal matter at all levels themselves–because “no delegating rule making (or legal enforcement)”. Their interpretation applied to them.


A very good point:

Article. III.

  • Section. 1.*

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

If Congress can’t delegate authority, neither can SCOTUS.

Here is a primer on the issue before SCOTUS. The contention is that the legislation that delegated authority to an administrative department is vague. We have seen the recent dispute whether the POTUS is an “officer of the United States”, even though the Constitution defines the Presidency as an “office of the United States” and, by definition, the holder of an office, is an “officer”, so, it would be impossible to write language clear enough that no-one would try to poke holes in it.

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Sure, but we don’t live in a bedroom, we live in the universe. You can shrink the universe till the cows come home and it will still be infinitely large.

Relax, we’ll survive 2% inflation just fine.


Maybe you missed the point. :-1:

The Captain

It certainly appears that one of us did.

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Anyone who is a supervisor fits into this definition but all the supervisors have work-related responsibilities. Making the number fictional.

Fruit salad logic where you can get apples and oranges with bananas in the dish.

MIT could have outsourced the janitorial functions but the comparison does not say that. By this I mean now they insource janitors again. Who knows?

The UC system statement includes “senior” professionals that could include professors emeritus who are no longer on the payroll. Or if the upkeep of the campuses was moved from one state department to another that percentage changes.

Break out the numbers if you want honesty but you might find a nothing burger.

Whether we relax or not does not change the math.

Whether we survive or not does not change the math.

The Captain

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