Down from Bureaucracy


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Close banner Close. Perhaps the absurd lengths to which attempts at central planning can be carried is illustrated in an incident reported by Joseph Berliner. A plant inspector, with the job of seeing why a plant had fallen behind on its delivery of mining machines, found that the "machines were piled up all over the place. Permission was granted to use green, but only after considerable delay since each layer of the bureaucracy was also afraid to authorize a plan change on its own and so sent the request to the next highest agency. Meanwhile, the mines had to shut down while the machines piled up in the warehouses.

The problem of bottlenecks is closely connected with that of organizational autarky. Plant managers are rewarded according to whether or not they have fulfilled their production quotas. To avoid becoming a victim of a bottleneck, and thus not fulfilling the quota, the tendency emerged for each industry to control receipt of its own resources by producing them itself. And, by , of the machine-tool plants were outside the appropriate industry, despite the fact that their production costs were in some cases up to percent greater. To combat this tendency Nikita Khrushchev reorganized the economy in by setting up Regional Economic Councils to replace the industrial ministries.

In the absence of other reforms, however, he merely succeeded in substituting "localism" for "departmentalism," as each economic region endeavored to become self-sufficient. To counter this the economy was further centralized in but this only increased inefficiency by further rigidifying an already inflexible economy. Unable to find the key to efficient planning, marked yet another significant step toward a return to a market economy.

These reforms not only introduced a limited profit system but also called for a "high degree of local autonomy for producers and suppliers. Detailed planning of every important aspect of production would disappear, to be replaced by minimal direct guidance from above. Marx postulated the withering away of the state. It is at least as significant as it is ironic that the continued shift of the socialist countries from bureaucratic planning to the market — what William Grampp terms the "new directions in the communist economies" — indicates a "withering away" of the sort never envisioned by Marx.

When considering the problem of distribution, we again find that capitalism is the enemy of bureaucracy. Under capitalism, production is for profit. Capital and labor constantly flow to where they can obtain the greatest return. As can be seen, there can be no separation between production and distribution; for those individuals who, in the eyes of the consumers, render the greatest services to "society" are precisely the ones who reap the greatest rewards.

Turning to socialism, it is difficult to say much in theoretical terms about the way in which wealth is distributed since there are a number of conceivable bases for distribution: equality, need, merit, and services rendered to society. It should be obvious, however, that the implementation of any of these would require conscious bureaucratic direction. It should also be pointed out in this context that the attempts to establish strict equality have never been successful and probably never will be. This is so for two reasons.

Modi government bogged down by bureaucracy and politics: US think-tank

First, to spur output the Soviet Union, for example, has always had to rely heavily on the bonus system for its plant managers and the piece-rate system for workers. The increasing centrality of the bonus system is indicated by the fact that while in bonuses equaled about four percent of a manager's salary, today it often reaches one half, with bonuses for some industries comprising as much as eighty percent of income.

Second, in any society where the state controls all the essential facets of the economy there is a natural temptation for those in control of the government to use their political power to obtain economic privileges. Thus it is not surprising that the revolution, regardless of intentions, only resulted in the replacement of one privileged elite by another. One example will illustrate this point. There are a host of "special shops" in the Soviet Union selling everything from food to jewelry.


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These stores, which are allegedly for the benefit of foreign tourists, have high quality merchandise at below cost prices in order to compensate the tourist for the government's artificially high exchange rate for rubles. However, James Wallace points out that "high-ranking government officials, senior military officials and upper ranks in the Communist Party are all privileged to shop in these stores as a fringe benefit of their jobs. It is a revealing sidelight, and one that should be especially noted by those who condemn capitalism for its unequal "distribution" of wealth, that there is greater inequality of wealth in the more socialist countries like the Soviet Union than in the relatively more market-oriented economies such as the United States.

This moreover, is not a historical accident but in conformity with economic theory. For under capitalism there is a natural tendency for capitalists to invest in areas with a low wage level, thereby forcing those rates up to a level commensurate with that of other areas doing the same work, while workers in low paying jobs tend to migrate to areas where pay is higher. Similarly, entrepreneurs invest in areas manifesting high profits.

Hermes' Bureaucrat Song

But the increased output forces prices and profits in those areas to fall. In short, while capitalism will never eliminate inequality, it does tend to reduce extremes of wealth and poverty.

The Bureaucracy Problem

Under capitalism the price system performs the crucial function of transmitting knowledge throughout the society and thereby eliminates the need for bureaucracy. But precisely because it eliminates the market, bureaucratic management is indispensable for a socialist economy. Furthermore, since there is an inverse relationship between central planning and the market, bureaucratic management is inherently contradictory. Its dilemma can best be summarized, perhaps, in the form of two planning paradoxes:.


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Paradox One: For central planning to be viable it needs market data to guide its decisions. But the greater the role of the markets the less that of central planning. Conversely, the more extensive the area of central planning the more limited the market data, and hence the more inefficient must be the operation of the economy.

Paradox Two: If the planning board endeavors to maximize consumer satisfaction it merely does manually what the market does automatically.

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It is then just a wasteful, redundant entity. But if the planning agency plans operations that would not have been undertaken on the market, then that is an indication that the priorities set by the agency are in conflict with those of the consumers. It is clear that, regardless of the course adopted by the agency, the position of the consumers must be worse off than it would have been under a market economy. View the discussion thread. Skip to main content. Three Problems of Coordination Israel Kirzner notes that there are three problems of coordination that must be solved in any socioeconomic system: the problem of priorities, i.

The Problem of Priorities Within a market system priorities are set by the consumers' buying and abstention from buying. Planning in the Soviet Union In order to construct the plan for the coming year the planners must have as much data as possible on the state of the economy for the current year.

What are your priorities for the agency?

Consequently, quality tends to suffer since managers try to find the easiest and quickest way to fulfill their quotas, and production continues, regardless of whether anyone wants the products, until the plan is altered by Gosplan. The Problem of Efficiency Turning to production we find the same results. Incessant Bottlenecks Since it is simply impossible for one agency to be able to familiarize itself with every nuance and peculiarity of every plant in the entire economy, much less to be able to plan for every possible contingency for a year in advance, the planners are forced to make decisions based on summary reports.

The Problem of Distribution When considering the problem of distribution, we again find that capitalism is the enemy of bureaucracy. Conclusion Under capitalism the price system performs the crucial function of transmitting knowledge throughout the society and thereby eliminates the need for bureaucracy. Its dilemma can best be summarized, perhaps, in the form of two planning paradoxes: Paradox One: For central planning to be viable it needs market data to guide its decisions. This article originally appeared in The Freeman , March Farrell Chicago, , pp. Satellites are also becoming smaller and more capable, constellations are growing larger, and the total cost to develop systems is continuing to decline.

We face clear external threats, but we have a growing panoply of viable solutions.


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  • We also have political leadership in Washington that is inclined towards action. This is the environment in which change can happen, and it is critical that we do not allow bureaucratic inertia, the true enemy of progress, stand in the way of success. Our acquisitions structures and policies were designed for development programs led by the government and in which space was a sanctuary.

    These worked at the time, but space is no longer a sanctuary now that investment in commercial space has eclipsed government investment. Acquisition and development timelines of 10 years or more just will not cut it in an era of rapid innovation today. Ever since the last generation of satellites and launch systems were developed, reusable rockets along with smaller and lower cost satellite systems became viable. These advancements are happening just as the United States needs new responsive options to stay ahead of external threats. They will be outdated, ineffective, and too costly for the environment today.

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