The business of red tape

On my way into work this morning, I was listening to a story on NPR on India’s bureacratic machine and the red tape involved when someone made a mistake on doing a banker’s draft missing one single rupee. The banker’s draft was missing one rupee, and the power company wouldn’t take it because it wasn’t paying the bill in full for the city. So back and forth, the person went from bank to power company to get it sorted out since the power company wouldn’t take cash for the one rupee. Eventually, all was well, but the story spoke of the massive red tape that the bureacratic machine deals out to the people.

[Side story – skip if you wish to just read about red tape ]
The first thought that crossed my mind was the time that I wrote out a check to pay Duke Power and for some unknown reason, the person that entered the check into the Duke Power billing system said that I paid $50+ instead $80+ (how you confuse a 8 with a 5 is beyond me when checks require you to write the amount out in english next to the digits). That meant I owed Duke Power due to some stupidity on the behalf of their billing department. Thank goodness for carbon copies, I called and did some damage control. They (customer service) said that it was fine and to just pay it next month. Go figure when they tried to shut off my power the next month. So I paid the extra $30+ bill and everything was fine and dandy except for some anger at bad customer service.
[ End of side story ]
Then came the thought about our own government.
Are we the father of the bureacratic machine and red tape? While unknowning of the historical models and while I’m positive that there is plenty of evidence of other governments before the United States came into existence of red tape, it’s difficult to wonder in the modern age if we didn’t start all of it.
After all, our government does create jobs for the sake of creating jobs. Who hasn’t ever heard of a job that was created because there was somebody’s uncle’s brother who needed a position? Ever wonder if the government would last if they were subject to the same budgets and cuts of any other corporate entity? It’s almost like the jobs came from one of those bubbles (you know the type, the Internet bubble of the 1990s), but no one bothered to tell them that the bubble had burst already a couple times over.
It’s interesting because, of all the people that have jobs, I wonder what red tape could be eliminated and how much more efficient and lean the government would be if they were running it like a corporate entity. My own employer took cuts back in the day from worldwide 140,000+ employees to current of about 70,000+. That’s a decrease of about half. Could government function with only half the people but more efficient process? I would imagine that it could.
So this leads to my next question. Would getting rid of red tape lead to more productive society and government? Hmm. That’s definitely an answer that we’ll never find out about. But for hypothetical reasons, let’s play it out. If the government was forced to use efficient means of dealing with process and fired half of the employees, then one of two things would happen. One, the government would go into chaos due to no one willing to step up and create processes to help make the jobs more efficient. Or two, the people get smarter about processes and government runs better with less people. But what about all of the people that were laid off? To survive, they would have to take up positions either in the corporate world where there is more accountability or they would have to get more education to provide more accountability since both government and corporate world would require it. Either way, it provides a stronger government.
Perhaps I’m only looking at certain viewpoints, but while red tape is needed, sometimes too much is a very bad thing as in the India example on NPR. Before the taxpayers start mindlessly handing over their money to a bloated government, perhaps someone should take a look at the business of red tape.