“In Defence of Bureaucracy”

March 7, 2013

I really enjoyed Gus O’Donnell’s passionate and powerful defence of the value of bureaucracy on Radio 4 on Tuesday.

Here’s a quote from the programme:

“Without rules and processes society would fall apart”

Which reminded me of this quote from Camille Paglia’s “Sexual Personae”:

“Moral codes are always obstructive, relative and man made. Yet they have been of enormous profit to civilisation. They are civilisation.”

Which in turn made me think as to whether creatives and entrepreneurs and the bureaucrats who are supposedly their nemesis are actually as different as we like to think. Certainly in my experience at the BBC many of the people running the business have a distiguished record in programme making. Creative people do make rules about what they do, even if these rules are sometimes fuzzy.

These days everything seems like theatre to me, whether it’s what people call “Comms” or “Marketing”, or even arguing a case with a government minister. Everything aspires to be “editorial” or “content”, it’s just that the quality of your avarage “communications message” is worse than the quality of the average radio programme (I hope that the quality of the average briefing paper to a minister is high). The Pollard Review report read like a novel to me.

Are the people building the amazing new Government Digital Service “bureaucrats”? They’re certainly civil servants. And they’re being amazingly creative.

Isn’t making a birth certificate and recording all births somehow a creative act?

Part two is on next week.


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