LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bureaucratic dysfunction is a worldwide problem

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Upon leaving his position at the Department of Health and Human Services, Director of Office of Research Integrity David Wright wrote in his resignation letter that the job was the worst one he had ever had (“HHS official resigns with scathing letter, rips ‘dysfunctional’ bureaucracy,” Web, March 15).

Mr. Wright indicated that he had been told his task was to make his bosses look good and to become a team player. Welcome David Wright to the fairly exclusive club of those prepared to expose the problems of working in a bureaucracy.

I was an undersecretary in the British Ministry of Defense, but I retired 10 years early after being informed repeatedly that I, too, was not a team player. The problems outlined by Mr. Wright are not confined to the American federal system, but rather are endemic in bureaucracies around the world.

Several decades ago, two wise gentlemen independently described the problems that lead to real inefficiencies in all large organizations. Cyril Parkinson and Laurence Peter published excellent books (“Parkinson’s Law” and “The Peter Principle”) that sadly have been treated as humorous treatises, rather than true commentary on how bureaucracies function (or fail to function).

We need more David Wrights to advertise what is really wrong with our society. I have made my contribution by publishing my own experiences under the title “An Uncivil Civil Servant.” The problems can be corrected, but it will take more than the efforts of the two of us.



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