The New Bureaucracy:
Waste and Folly in the Private Sector
McClelland & Stewart
Toronto, 1991
Table of contents
Review excerpts
The story behind the book
Bureaucracy. Until the appearance of this book it was the word for government red tape, for petty-minded civil servants, and for their needless complications and waste of taxpayers’ money. But with the publication of The New Bureaucracy, that was no longer what bureaucracy meant. The definition was dramatically expanded by Herschel Hardin’s exposé of the extraordinary extent of wasteful, expensive, and foolish bureaucracy in the private sector.

And like all entrenched bureaucracies, the New Bureaucracy hides behind an ideological screen – in its case, “free enterprise” – allowing for the perpetration of the waste, luxury and imposition of power.

Among Hardin’s many targets are the paper-shuffling of the stock and money markets and the merry-go-round of corporate mergers and buyouts. He also scrutinizes the expensive make-work of lobbyists, consultants, and the peddlers of motivational seminars. And he examines the extravagant rewards and perks given to corporate executives, the outrageous costs of advertising to maintain market share, and the self-serving intrusion of corporations into the fields of sports and culture.

The private sector, robed like an emperor in the garments of entrepreneurialism and competition, meets the commonsensical witness who points out what’s really on parade.

The New Bureaucracy cuts through obfuscation and gobbledygook to expose the reality at the core. In the process, it explodes the greatest myth of our times – that the private sector is necessarily more frugal and many times more efficient than the public sector.

Book talk
The New Bureaucracy is made up of several interrelated branches, each branch of which is given a chapter in the book. There’s the corporate branch (the runaway compensation of executives, the lobbyists, the pretensions), the paper entrepreneurialism branch (mergers and acquisitions), and so on. Of all of these chapters, however, the most important may be the ones that appear late in the book – the two on advertising and marketing, followed by the chapter on economists, think tanks and the media. These are the branches, with their “commissars,” that elaborate and entrench the ideological culture within which the New Bureaucracy flourishes.

When The New Bureaucracy appeared, I wondered whether some of the bureaucratic excesses might abate. Merger and acquisition activity, for example, had leveled off at the beginning of the 1990s. I came to the conclusion, however, that the dynamics of entrenched bureaucracy would generate expansion regardless. This is what occurred. New waves of mergers and acquisitions put the takeovers and leveraged buyouts of the 1980s into the shadows, sensational as that earlier “M&A” wave seemed to be at the time, The advertising and marketing branch, similarly, became even more intrusive, pervasive, and spendthrift. And as for the “One Big Bureaucracy,” only briefly outlined in the closing chapter of the book – and more as a prediction than anything else – it happened in spades as the globalization of the 1990s progressed.

Copyright © Herschel Hardin 2005
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