I write about bureaucracy from time to time here on the blog (including the two postings below) and I also cover the subject in Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. You might wonder why.
Before I started researching Warnings, I had the same problems with bureaucracy that most people encounter. Ask me about my last visit to the Kansas DMV office; what a nightmare! But, it didn’t seem to be a particularly important topic.
When I was researching the Katrina chapters of Warnings I was amazed and appalled at what I found: Decisions made by bureaucrats directly lead to the deaths of hundreds of people. And, no one has ever been called to account for these decisions!
In the “Murder by Bureaucracy” chapter, I talk about holding rescuers away from New Orleans and making them take a sexual harassment course while the city was filling with water. About how decisions were made to force Katrina flood victims from escaping. And, to block private sector companies from getting desperately needed supplies from the victims while the federal government was nowhere to be found.
And, here is the clincher: No one has ever been held accountable for these decisions!
You might think these were isolated cases and, if they were, it would be one thing. But, exactly the same mistakes were made in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. And, some of the same mistakes were made in the Gulf oil spill last summer.
An unaccountable bureaucracy isn’t a problem of political party. Katrina occurred under President Bush. The mess during the Gulf oil spill occurred under President Obama. I’m concluding that these ridiculous actions – made by people seemingly unaccountable to anyone – are an increasingly serious threat to our nation. So, I’m trying to shed some light on these problems when they present themselves.