Bureaucratic Sclerosis

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Most observers interpret bureaucratic sclerosis as a sign of a government which is too powerful, Mencius Moldbug notes:

In fact it is a sign of a government which is too weak. If seventeen officials need to provide signoff for you to repaint the fence in your front yard, this is not because George W. Bush, El Maximo Jefe, was so concerned about the toxicity of red paint that he wants to make seventeen-times-sure that no wandering fruit flies are spattered with the nefarious chemical. It is because a lot of people have succeeded in making work for themselves, and that work has been spread wide and well. They are thriving off tiny pinhole leaks through which power leaks out of the State. A strong [sovereign] would plug the leaks, and retire the officials.

Outside the Communist bloc proper, of course, the ultimate in power leakage and resulting bureaucracy was India’s infamous Permit Raj, which still to some extent exists. Needless to say, if the subcontinent was run on a profit basis, the Permit Raj would not be good business. In fact, quite amusingly and with no apparent sense of irony, our favorite newspaper recently printed an article in which the following lines appear:

Vietnam’s biggest selling point for many companies is its political stability. Like China, it has a nominally Communist one-party system that crushes dissent, keeps the military under tight control and changes government policies and leaders slowly.

“Communism means more stability,” Mr. Shu, the chief financial officer of Texhong, said, voicing a common view among Asian executives who make investment decisions. At least a few American executives agree, although they never say so on the record.

Democracies like those in Thailand and the Philippines have proved more vulnerable to military coups and instability. A military coup in Thailand in September 2006 was briefly followed by an attempt, never completed, to impose nationalistic legislation penalizing foreign companies.

“That sent the wrong signal that we would not welcome foreign investment — this has ruined the confidence of investors locally and internationally,” the finance minister Surapong Suebwonglee said in an interview in Bangkok.

The ironies! Of course, perhaps it is not so ironic after all, as perhaps the main reason that the old China Hands, the men (such as Owen Lattimore) who by “manipulating procedural outcomes” gave China to Mao, thought the Communists were the shizzle is that they were obviously so strong. America could really do great things in Asia with the ruthlessly indoctrinated divisions of the PLA on its side, as opposed to Chiang Kai-Shek, who looked like his main interests were opium and little boys.

After fifty million deaths and the annihilation of traditional Chinese culture, what still remains is that strength. There is not much antinomianism in China, which has reduced its totalitarian pretensions to one simple and easily-obeyed rule: do not challenge the Party for power. The result, though profoundly flawed, is the most successful capitalist country in the world. All things considered, it is certainly one of the best to do business in — as the article describes.

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