In response to an FT article by Gillian Tett on 30th July 2015, entitled 'The land of free markets, tied down by red tape'
I once told the management board of a client that their organisation had task teams and committees coming out of their proverbial; many were working at cross purposes, all were producing masses of 'output', most of it was never followed through, no-one held an overview.
After much denial, arguments and justification for the absolute necessity of each committee/team/initiative...I suggested the blindingly obvious - that if everything is urgent then nothing is important.
The CEO, who by now was pulling out his hair, said 'enough of this guys - something has to give'. One bright spark offered the following suggestion:
"We'll create a team to look at this"
The CEO's face was a study in bafflement...puzzled 'looks' flowed round the room until even the bright spark got it, and then they all laughed, thank God.
The problem here is more than the red-tape itself. The root cause is a mindset that creates red tape and then feeds on it, setting up a vicious circle. All organisations create justification for their own existence. If you are a doctor, your reason for existence is clear - heal people and stop them getting sick. If you are a CEO it's clear also, or should be - produce something people want to buy from you, do it profitably, and create an environment that people want to work in because it's rewarding and satisfying for them to do so. But in all organisations, commercial or otherwise, there is red tape that breeds more red tape in order to justify its own existence.
In my own, admittedly jaundiced view, government organisations are the worst of the lot. They usually have very little involvement with, or ownership for, wealth creation, and whilst their 'mission' may start out to protect and serve, their output is inevitably 'laws', 'guidelines' and 'rules', which of course require compliance. This begets loopholes, which people wriggle through, which begets more rules. Over time, government forgets its communal purpose to serve and protect - and creates a purpose of its own - to control, to multiply and to defend itself. Unless this is addressed consciously it will 'just happen'. Why? Because the people making the rules tend to get their own way.
It is the 'control freak' mindset that this process attracts, and then propagates, that needs to be challenged. As the US gets closer to its election year, now would be a good time for Americans to discuss what they want from government. That in itself is a huge ask. Personally I would like to see a third candidate to challenge the status quo...please God just not the buffoon. The mainstream politicians, whether they are red or blue, elephants or donkeys...even in the land of the free...the thing they all love the most is...yes that's right...control.
We need to decide what government is for, not just how much money to spend. A choice between guns and butter usually ends up with more money spent on both - and more red tape.