Decay Point: Bureaucratic Sclerosis

by Scott Morales

Alas, as a society decays, its parts shrivel and wither in interestingly tragic ways. An exemplar of such decay occurred just the other day. Big Government’s bureaucratic sclerosis hit a Fire Department so hard that it felt it necessary for its, “…22 firefighters and six vehicles…” to remain idle on the shore and watch a man drown in icy water for 13 minutes, according to the Daily Caller. They “…didn’t launch an inflatable boat until just before he disappeared. The firefighters pulled Brown’s body out of the water roughly an hour after they arrived.”

“‘They followed our ice rescue guidelines pretty much to a T,’ Champaign Deputy Fire Chief Eric Mitchell told The News Gazette.”. Whew! Thank goodness.  I’m sure they wouldn’t want to be cited for noncompliance. Allay your fears great citizens of Champaign, Illinois, there will be no lawsuits or fines today, only one less citizen, because our Fire Department followed the rules to a “T”. That sounds like a decent trade off, eh?


What’s the point of having such services if they’re not around when you need them? Exactly what does the “rescue” mean in the notion of “Fire and Rescue”?  Ahh, I stand corrected; after looking at the Fire Department’s Page on the City of Champaign’s website, they don’t have a “Fire and Rescue Department” only a Fire Department, so that may be it. Although that same page states that the Fire Department’s mission  includes, “Supply … rescue services…for the City.” I guess we’ll need a definition of such “services”. Maybe it’s a literal interpretation, and it supplies help, literally,  “for the City” and the pond being part of the “City”, it rescued the pond from a rotting corpse.

Too harsh? Too bad.

Big Governmenters argue all the time that with Big Government you’re not on your own, and they’ll be there when you need them. Small Governmenters counter that this belief is nefarious folly and provides a false sense of security. Too bad we can’t ask the drowning man, Kenneth Brown, which he understood when he first stepped his booted foot onto the icy surface and then later when he observed, through flailing glimpses of the shore, the gathering audience of public servants standing idle as hypothermia claimed his organs.

Big Government isn’t simply the physical size of a government in terms of people as the left likes to argue. Among other things, it also refers to the bigness of a bureaucracy and the inefficiencies it places on the government when there are so many rules, procedures, plans, departments and bureaucratic layers in place that it suffocates itself by these self-imposed impediments and can no longer do what it’s supposed to do. The left argues that all of this is necessary to solve a problem. It’s not. It’s a function of a lazy political class all too eager to find the easy “solution” and just throw money at a problem, deliver a press conference, place a “done this” check mark on the reelection resume, and move on. They’re assisted by followers of a political ideology that in essence is “more government, good”. All of this is enabled by a constituency too lazy or too uninterested to think through the problems and mistakenly trusts the illusory leftist ideologues that problem is taken care of. Of course it isn’t. And when it reemerges they subscribe to the same solution that just failed. It’s a spiral that’s claimed many of our cities. That’s the problem.

The death of Mr. Brown didn’t happen because of slim government resources because as stated previously, there were  “…22 firefighters and six vehicles…”  at the scene. No, he departed because of bureaucratic sclerosis. A sclerosis so severe, that some do not see a dissonance between a government department that, “…followed …” its “… ice rescue guidelines pretty much to a T” and in being compliant with those guidelines, a man froze to death slowly in front of the public and the servants of that department for 13 minutes.

Bureaucratic sclerosis is a symptom of an incapacitated, red-tape beleaguered government that cannot function properly. A symptom of Big Government.

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