Melbourne Anarchist Archives Index

The Quintessence of Bureaucracy (1969)

I have just heard a news item which told of a man who was gaoled for three months for the 'crime' of stealing eleven pairs of pantihouse from a large Melbourne store. And in the Broadmeadows court on Thursday July 10, seventeen parents were each fined $4 on the charge of having failed to cause their children to attend school (The Sun 18/7/69).

Both decisions characterise the stupidity and waste of the legal system. The first case - a ridiculously large penalty for a trivial 'crime'; the second case - a small penalty for an offense which illustrates the authoritarian mentality of the education department. The S.M. in this case, Mr. R. K. Huspeth, told one of the defendant "I know it isn't easy. There are ways. If my kids stopped home, I know what I would do with them. They wouldn't do it again." Children stay away from school probably because of the repressive, antieducational tendencies of our educational system. Mr. Huspeth's comments imply that the solution for truancy is for pare to use brutality on their children in order to force them to attend school.

Meanwhile time, money are wasted on courts as the education department implements the law requiring compulsory school attendance for all children less than fifteen years old. And the man in the first case mentioned, the convicted man loses three months of his life in prison (at considerable expense to the State), because a bureaucrat (the S.M.) was feeling particularly strict. Surely, even in a capitalist society it would be more logical to let the man continue to work so that he could pay for the stolen goods. But the mind of a bureaucrat does not usually think in humane or logical terms.

From 8.45A.M. to 5.06P.M. (or similar), the bureaucrat functions. He is not concerned with human problems - he is concerned with executing orders from above, balancing books, maintaining files and records, etc, etc., The officers of the housing commission who are trying to evict people out of their homes in Carlton, are not expected to worry about the feelings of the tenants or the historical value of the houses to be demolished. The bureaucrats at the housing commission aren't in danger of losing their homes. The gas and fuel corporation clerk who orders the cutting off of gas to a house because of an unpaid bill does not bother to discover that the breadwinner of the home is unemployed (due to circumstances beyond his control), and his wife has one or more sick children to care for. The labor exchange official who offers an unemployed man a basic wage job twenty miles from his home, does not worry about the high cost of fares and cancels the worker's unemployment benefits if he refuses to accept the job. The officers of the social services department who hound pensioners suspected of earning more money than allowed by law, do not stop to ask the pensioner if he has enough to eat.

Every day, politicians, public servants, judges, magistrates, police and departmental investigators are responsible for injustices, both large and small. This will continue to be so for as long as we live under the rule of the State. The State is not concerned with people; it is concerned with its own (efficient or not) maintenance. For this it requires the existence of bureaucrats, who do not let issues like poverty, ill-health, misery, aesthetics and practicality interfere with objective judgements and wise decisions. While a bureaucrat is on the job he is not corrupted by human emotions; he has his job to do.

[ Top of Page ] [ Melbourne Anarchist Archives Index ] [ Radical Tradition Contents ]