Cleaning house: Citizens must work together to fix local government

Bureaucracy. What is it? How does it affect us daily? I have pondered this my entire life. The simple definition: Bureaucracy is a body of non-elected government officials that make policy for you and me to abide by.

Bureaucracy is with us from the cradle to the grave. It may be in the form of the kid in school who helps pass out supplies or the county employee who issues you a death certificate for a loved one.

Is it just me, or is there an ever-increasing number of government rules and regulations? I submit there are more now than during the Civil War.

When one reads about the exploits of Allan Pinkerton, bureaucracy rears its ugly head. Pinkerton employed a lot of people to spy on the Confederate Army. In the fall of 1862, Pinkerton was frustrated by the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. So you see, even during the Civil War era, we had bureaucrats making decisions. Were these folk elected? I think not.

Allow me to give you some more modern examples. Look at Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson published a lot about efficiency. With regard to bureaucrats he said, “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals, and officials make work for each other.” Did you know that in one country in South America bureaucracy is so bad it has an office to check on the bureaucracy? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Did you know the original bureaucracy of the federal government only consisted of three small departments? State, Treasury, and War.

Now, it is a given that our modern world is far more complex. But, do we really need all the bureaucracy at the local, state and federal levels? We do not.

George Washington pledged to hire only people who shall be the best qualified. However, most of his hires came from the budding Federalist Party. Nothing changes, does it?

I submit that even today this certainly still goes on under the guise of bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy certainly did grow in the 20th century as America moved from World War I through the Roaring Twenties. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I believe that we in a democracy do need certain regulations. If not, we would all revert to the Stone Age. However, bureaucracy began to show its true colors during the 20th century.

The largest growth of bureaucracy in America came between 1933 and 1945. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal meant bigger government. The total number of federal employees increased from a little over half a million 1933 to a record high of more than 3.5 million in 1945. It is true that after World War II the total number of federal employees decreased significantly.

So was FDR justified or not? I do know that FDR was trying to get us out of one of the worst depressions America has ever seen.

I submit that our bureaucrats run our great country. Their decisions affect us in our daily lives. Bureaucrats are non-elected government officials who make policy for us. I think this is wrong. How do we change it? We must work together at the local, state and federal levels to slow it down.

I’ll end with a story. Many years ago I was fortunate to have lunch with former Congressman and Indianapolis mayor, Bill Hudnut, after he had left his congressional office. He told me, at the time, that he had recently made a trip back to Washington, D.C.

He told me the most frustrating part was that when he returned to D.C., he noticed the bureaucrats were still running Congress.

Every American must get involved at all levels. We must demand that all our elected officials are held accountable to us, as voters. We must demand they work diligently to eliminate wasteful bureaucracy in our government. If not, what are the consequences? We simply kick the can to the next generation. I for one do not want to continue to play that game.

C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher, Sugar Creek Township trustee and co-director of the Hancock County Character Council. Send comments to