By Ludwig von Mises

Synopsis: This book discusses the nature of bureaucracy as opposed to the market, and discusses the negative effects that occur when the market is supplanted by the bureaucracy of government. As the profit motive is replaced by the unresponsive apparatus of bureaucracy inferior results occur, to the detriment of society. Government meddling into business operations is the cause for such a phenomenon, and not a natural trend of growing business.

Strong Points: For being a short little book, it packs quite a punch. It gives many insights about the nature of bureaucracy and how it differs from a business which is sensitive to profit and loss. It tells the reader that there are serious and debilitating consequences for society when bureaucracy is extended into the business world. The book is good for highlighting the merits of free enterprise and profit-centered business and the problems of government bureaucracy invading that sphere.

Weak Points: At the beginning of the book there were a few strange statements about the Constitution allowing for the bureaucratization of business if the sovereign people willed for it. I don’t think this is quite correct, since the Constitution was to protect the rights of people from being usurped by others, majority opinion notwithstanding. Nevertheless, as you moved through the book, its points became more salient.

Interesting: 4/5

Must Read: 2.5/5

Overall: 4/5

Pages: 137

Selected Quotes: “… bureaucracy in itself is neither good nor bad. It is a method of management which can be applied in different spheres of human activity. There is a field, namely, the handling of the apparatus of government, in which bureaucratic methods are required by necessity. What many people nowadays consider an evil is not bureaucracy as such, but the expansion of the sphere in which bureaucratic management is applied. This expansion is the unavoidable consequence of the progressive restriction of the individual citizen's freedom, of the inherent trend of present-day economic and social policies toward the substitution of government control for private initiative. People blame bureaucracy, but what they really have in mind are the endeavors to make the state socialist and totalitarian.” (p. 48).

“Representative democracy cannot subsist if a great part of the voters are on the government pay roll. If the members of parliament no longer consider themselves mandatories of the taxpayers but deputies of those receiving salaries, wages, subsidies, doles, and other benefits from the treasury, democracy is done for.” (p. 88).

“All specialists, whether businessmen or professional people, are fully aware of their dependence on the consumers' directives. Daily experience teaches them that, under capitalism, their main task is to serve the consumers. Those specialists who lack an understanding of the fundamental social problems resent very deeply this "servitude" and want to be freed. The revolt of narrow-minded experts is one of the powerful forces pushing toward general bureaucratization.” (p. 97).

“The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau, what an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight for!” (p. 134).


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