Aquaculture Magazine

April/ May 2017

Editor´s Comments

By C. Greg Lutz

“Bureaucracies often are not purposefully coordinated and rational organizations, but instead become structures filled with many dysfunctional individual and group tendencies and performances.” M.A. Diamond and S. Allcorn. 1985. Organizational Dynamics 14(1):35-40.

By C. Greg Lutz

Throughout the world, aquaculturists cite excessive regulation as a major constraint to development of their businesses. It should come as no surprise if we reflect on the societal organization and human tendencies involved. The origins of the word “bureaucracy” are enlightening.  In 18th century Western Europe, the French word “bureau” was used for both desks and offices.  The “-cracy” part of the word, which we see in other terms such as kleptocracy, theocracy, technocracy, etc. comes from the Greek “kratia” or “kratos” and refers to rule, or power through authority. 

So, there you have it.  Authoritative rule, whose seat of power is an office somewhere. Bureaucracy is an insidiously human tendency. It has been with us for thousands of years.  As humanity began to form more complex societies, the pattern began with primitive religious orders. Over time the need for centralized authority, defense of the state, laws, taxes and accounting all evolved as fertile ground for the formation of bureaucracies and those who thrive in them.  

One universal flaw in bureaucratic institutions is the substitution of the means for the ends. The means actually become the ends. The public interest becomes secondary to the organizational interest. This leads to a constant effort to justify the mission, often through creation of ill-defined threats to the public good which must be kept at bay. Marx argued that bureaucracies rarely contribute value to society, but rather represent a cost to those they are supposed to serve. Max Weber outlined the many positive aspects of well-organized bureaucracies, but he also pointed out ways in which they become dysfunctional. Prominent among these are inflexibility of procedures, which slows or complicates decision-making, and a flawed vision, in which the organization and/or individual players begin to feel above reproach and infallible.  

J.R. Taylor wrote “An epiphany comes when you realize you do not need bureaucrats but can simply observe the type as a personal survival mechanism. Do not let it know it is under observation. It is very wary.” (Can J Plast Surg. 17(1): 6). Indeed, the typical bureaucrat fears threats to the status quo, and many become nervous when subjected to prying questions. I have come to believe that relegating a human being to a cubicle in an obscure government facility will, over time, result in an insatiable desire to exercise authority, often justified by portraying oneself as a protector or savior, with the better part of every 8-hour day devoted to sustaining the justification for personal existence. 

Dr. C. Greg Lutz has a B.A. in Biology and Spanish by the Earlham College at Richmond, Indiana, a M.S. in Fisheries and a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science by the Louisiana State University. His interests include recirculating system technology and population dynamics, quantitative genetics and multivariate analyses and the use of web based technology for result-demonstration methods.

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