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A Bureaucratised Society

The government needs to stop putting its nose where it doesn't belong, and to ensure civil servants create value for society instead of just pushing paper.

Written by johnleemk on 1:59:31 pm Jun 10, 2007.

One remarkable thing about Malaysia is how the government has so thoroughly injected itself into areas it should not be dealing with. (Our economy, for example, is incredibly state-centred, which spells disaster if not addressed quickly.)

And as we all know, the hallmark of big government is big bureaucracy. A substantial portion of the population (there were over a million civil servants in our bloated civil service the last time I checked) earns its keep not by creating value but by pushing paper.

Amazingly, despite the government's hiring policies' inability to keep up with the growing number of unemployable graduates, there is still an immense shortfall of paper-pushers.

Many people who should be doing things like planning projects, teaching students, and patrolling our streets are instead filling out forms and stamping pieces of paper.

There are two immediate causes for this. The first is obviously a shortfall of people who are meant to handle this paperwork — a lack of clerks means that teachers end up being the ones forced to tabulate students' marks and input them into the computer system.

The other is a surplus of people whose only ability is paper pushing being present in areas where the task at hand is something besides paper pushing. This is why many "engineers" are only good for acting official, and not good for engineering at all.

And, of course, the underlying cause of all this is unnecessary government intrusion into our lives. I am willing to bet a lot of paperwork filled out by, say, teachers, stems from the fact that the federal government (instead of local governments or school boards) controls the public school system almost as tightly as the communists in Soviet Russia controlled everything.

The product of government intrusion is paperwork, after all. In East Germany, the Stasi intruded in the lives of thousands, if not millions, of their citizens, and the result was a flood of paper which overloaded their industrial shredding machines after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

It's time to get this bureaucracy and paper pushing out of our lives. Even if it does not hurt us indirectly, I am confident it does a great deal of indirect harm.

In the end, who is harmed when a teacher cannot teach, cannot create lesson plans, cannot mark homework, because she is doing work that a clerk ought to be doing? Who is harmed when the policeman has to fill out paperwork that any literate peon could be scribbling instead of doing his rounds?

It is our society that is harmed. We need to downsize our massive bureaucracy, and get the federal government's nose out of places where it does not belong. Where the government should be taking action, it needs to properly allocate paper pushers, instead of promoting these incompetent buffoons to positions where they have to do more than just paperwork.