Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


More on Bureaucracy

This is a follow-on to “Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Bureaucracy?” and the same disclaimers apply.

I’ll note that Time Magazine has an article “How Reliable Is Brown’s Resume:

The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 “overseeing the emergency services division.” In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an “assistant to the city manager” from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. “The assistant is more like an intern,” she told TIME. “Department heads did not report to him.” Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. “Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University,” recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. “Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I’d ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt.”

That’s exactly what my former bosses would all say about me: I showed up on time in a starched white shirt. Isn’t that what we all look to be remembered for?

This didn’t come up in Brown’s confirmation hearings. Why not? Isn’t going through a resume, and checking up on it, an important part of the hiring process? Why didn’t any of the screening agencies, or the many watchdog, lobbying, or good government groups that fill Washington do any digging?

One answer would be because government has grown too big to manage or oversee. That as it has grown too large to manage, or to lead, we inevitably move from effectiveness to CYA. In Brown’s particular case, the confirmation hearing lasted all of 42 minutes.

Why was such a critical position so summarily approved? Because (as of 1999) there were 4,000 Presidential appointees. If we make the (false) assumptions that they all have to be approved in a year, and that the Senate does nothing but Presidential appointee advising-and-consenting, and that the Senate works 50 weeks a year, they’d still have only 30 minutes per appointee. I’ve never hired anyone after only 30 minutes of my time.

[Update: Fixed title spelling.]

2 comments on "More on Bureaucracy"

  • anon says:

    So then the trivial solution is that you have to trust the guy hiring the appointed bureaucrat. Oh, wait…

  • Chris Walsh says:

    Your analysis presumes that confirmation hearings cannot be held in parallel.

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