Why Did America’s Founding Fathers Bother With so Much Bureaucracy?
Date: 25 May 2016 Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Bureaucracy is generally taken to be a quite loathsome subject, or else it’s seen as a necessary part of modern life that perhaps can’t be avoided altogether but should surely be ignored wherever possible.
This is what Oxford online dictionary has for the word ‘bureaucracy’:
A system of government in which most of the important decisions are taken by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
But is this really the right way to think about bureaucracy?
Shouldn’t we perhaps be celebrating the work that our unelected government officials do and thanking the founding fathers for creating so many wonderfully intricate mechanisms for administering the more mundane but essential aspects of everyday life and society?
Or in other words, might we ask in what ways does bureaucracy help the common good?
Stability and independence
It isn’t easy for anyone, even the very best historians around, to imagine precisely what life was like for people living in the 18th century when the United States became an independent nation beyond the authority of the kings of Great Britain.
But it doesn’t take much of an imaginative leap to assume that the years during which the country was being created were turbulent times to say the very least.
So to create a functioning bureaucracy, which most of us take very much for granted today of course, was actually something of a revolutionary act. It helped enormously in enabling early American society to become more stable and sustainably well structured.
Creating the conditions for progress
From an economic perspective, having a functioning bureaucracy is vitally important for any country in any era because the stability it helps to create goes a long way in reassuring investors that they can spend their money with confidence in a particular place.
In the context of a newly formed United States of America, ensuring that the country was stable enough to sustain and reward ambitious investment efforts proved essential in establishing its capacity for growth and in many ways helped to shape the nation’s development.
So by creating the kind of institutions that are today often mocked or maligned as relics or little more than halls full of pedantic automatons have actually done much more for the common good than many people realize or appreciate.
Paving the way to prosperity
There was a lot that made the creation of the USA a revolutionary process and it’s founding as a democracy governed by the people and for the people inspired millions from around the world to flock to its shores to start new lives.
The fundamental building blocks of that new society are still very much the basis of how the USA governs itself today in the 21st century and bureaucracy is, as it always was, a centrally important part of all that.
So while the intricacies of how the country is governed and how it functions might now be of little or no interest to most Americans, they arguably owe their unfashionable bureaucracy a huge debt of gratitude in allowing them to continue enjoying their unalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.