The Barnacle Bureaucracy

Posted by jlubans on February 10, 2017

Caption: In need of a scraping.

While along for the ride on a snorkeling expedition in the Bay of Cortez at La Paz, Baja, Mexico, I heard the guide’s advice for swimmers getting back into the boat. One thing he said stuck with me. Keep you feet out from under the boat to avoid getting cut by the barnacles.
All ocean going craft are aggravated by barnacles. Periodically, boats have to have their hulls and keels scraped to get rid of these crusty free loaders. They slow down the boat and they can harm you.
It brought to mind, metaphorically, my experiences in some bureaucracies - in my case, large libraries - which seem to be encrusted with barnacles, impeding progress and doing damage to the workers
Back on shore, when I did an e-search on my invented phrase, the “barnacle bureaucracy” I found one article, "Barnacles",that used the two words but never paired them up. So, I am claiming a primacy of sorts for “barnacle bureaucracy”.
The article is enlightening because it elaborates on the metaphor and provides numerous parallels.
No, I am not claiming all bureaucracies are barnacled; some are sleek and speedy in helping people navigate not-for-profit agencies.
Some, however, are less so and do take their time, wallowing like an encrusted coastal steamer from port to port, and maybe or maybe not arriving on time with its cargo.
Here in my temporary home of Salem, Oregon I’ve been an observer of how some county agencies behave. Let’s just say I have seen some “inefficiencies”. Perhaps inefficiencies are barnacles. My Marxist friends would, no doubt shrug a collective shoulder and make excuses for that’s the way it is; deal with it. It is after all the pursuit of the public good – the intended good - that’s important.
Tell that to the person who’s not been paid for two months because the payroll office does not talk to the service agency. Or, counsel the job seeker who’s been cleared to get a job but has to wait an additional two months because the vetting done by one agency will not be used by another agency; it “must” do its own.
Redundancies are barnacles. Tradition-bound ways of doing things are barnacles. Non-work (e.g. checking of other people’s work) is a large impeding barnacle.
I could go on – and so could most of us – but I won’t.
Now and then, all “boats” need to have their bottoms scraped clean.
Caption: Thanks, Russ, the sailor man.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

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