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Sounds Like Morocco

This is from Talking Points Memo reader MA:

    If the governing Bush/Cheney philosophy is that the public sector doesn’t work, that it is inherently…antagonistic to citizens and individuals, this philosophy has a way of slithering its way into the workings of the system itself…in the day-to-day operation of government bureaucracies.
    There’s something almost stifling about imagining a bureaucracy that really is antagonistic to individuals—one that not only slows down, but finds some vindication in throwing up road blocks, thwarting citizen requests, and, in the end, not serving the public. I have family members who lived in former communist countries—and that’s really how the bureaucracy was there…much of the time the system just didn’t work, and had to be gamed (or bribed).
    The idea of living in a country where the administration’s goal is to demonstrate just how bad government is/can be scares me…I want my schools and courts and inspection agencies and passport agencies and so on to be run by people who really believe in government service…. Bush seems to be doing everything he can to dismantle such a world—and he risks fueling a vicious circle in so doing.

For those of you who don’t know Talking Points Memo, it is a great source of investigative journalism from a progressive perspective. They usually focus on domestic political scandals, but its editor Josh Marshall is also a strong opponent of the Iraq war and attacking Iran. For non-U.S. readers, TPM an excellent example of how independent journalism can serve as a check on arbitrary power. Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t done much yet with the information they’ve dug up, so staying informed remains the best check we have!

I think MA’s point about the importance of having bureaucrats who believe in public service is an excellent one. We take this for granted in the U.S., because we assume it has to be this way. But I’ve experienced Moroccan bureaucracy, where government officials make you feel about as welcome as a fly on their sandwich—unless they perceive you as someone more powerful, in which case they serve you with sweat on their brows and insincere smiles. A rational bureaucracy that serves the people is a privilege of the wealthy democracies. It’s ironic that as other nations struggle to achieve this, the Bush/Cheney administration is working overtime to take it away.


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