Recent police brutality in the USA demonstrated how bureaucratic power in the hands of law enforcement turned into infantile stupidity, the very moment it used excessive force.
For more than a year, ISIS, the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Middle East, has demonstrated how blatant violence turned into bloody random, beastly brutality, whereby victims did not enjoy any recourse of legal or bureaucratic protection of any kind.
These two examples may be extremes but the question remains, how much bureaucracy do people need?
Violence is a prerogative of the State, only the State has a license-to-kill. Laws and regulations, handled by an anonymous and impartial bureaucracy, are there to protect the people from abuse.
Bureaucracy is hated by the people, not for the protection they provide, but for their flagrant lack of imagination; “bureaucrats are stupid!” Their stupidity in itself becomes a form of structural violence against the people they are supposed to protect.
Populist politicians promise to break down bureaucratic barriers and therewith revitalize imagination, creativity and humanity, the very source of economic prosperity, of welfare and wellbeing. Populist politicians’ promises will realize, almost instantly, the wildest dreams of the people, shortcutting all red tape, laws of economics, and whatever stands in its way. This though, can only materialize at the risk of increased use of violence.
Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela have become the very epitome of this paradoxical phenomenon. Their efforts to sidestep local and international agreements, laws and regulations, free markets, economics and human rights, resulted in world records of violence, performed by Venezuela’s law enforcement bureaucracy on one side, and the people on the other.
Respect of the people for legal checks and balances, for legislature and law enforcement has reached an all time low, as is often reflected in turn outs at elections. “Why would we vote? It will not make any difference!” Thus, the growing contempt of the State and its institutions has become the main breeding ground for illicit activities, for crime.
Any populist leader who promises to jump bureaucratic barriers will inevitably create more crime and unlawful activities and one day, he may even have to stand trial to defend his own criminal activities.
So rather, a political leader will be successful when he is able to humanize bureaucracy, to take away bureaucracy’s stupidity of unnecessary red tape and, at the same time, stay in charge. Governing has become management of bureaucracy, or even, an ongoing battle against them.
It is a fine balancing act that requires a unique genius acrobat.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.