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Bureaucracy

  • Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises
July 20, 2005

Tags Big GovernmentInterventionism

Mises said it right here. In these pages we find the crushing critique of nearly all modern reform movements, summed up in his sweeping conclusion:

"The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight!"

Mises explains that the core choice we face is between rational economic organization by market prices or the arbitrary dictates of government bureaucrats. There is no third way. And here he explains how it is that bureaucracies can't manage anything well or with an eye for economics at all. It is a devastating and fundamental criticism he makes, an extension of his critique of socialism. It has never been answered.

Written long before Public Choice economists began to take up the subject, Mises describes bureaucracies as both self-interested and economically irrational (thereby improving on the modern Public Choice critique). There is no reinventing government: if we are to have government do things for us, bureaucracies, which cannot behave efficiently, will have to do the work. This small book has grown in stature as Western economies have become more and more bureaucratized.


Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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References

1944. Yale University Press. 1969, New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.