Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Gentle Art of Bureacracy

Unlike many people, I'm generally a fan of bureaucracy. I believe that having policies and procedures set up is essential pretty much whenever you need to get a large group of people to work collectively, and I find knowing that I can look up a rule for just about anything I need to do oddly comforting. This may explain why I have managed to remain reasonably happily in the employ of the state for nearly half my life.

There is, however, an art to bureaucracy. It's easy to become enamored of rules for their own sake, and take things too far--as certain prisons seem to have done recently in setting up their approved vendor system for book shipments under the Department of Corrections' personal property policy. I do understand that books make excellent hiding places for other items. I also understand that prison shipping and receiving departments are woefully understaffed and probably perpetually overwhelmed. I'm just not convinced that defining used books as contraband and sharply limiting the flow of reading material to prisoners is the way to deal with these issues.

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