Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union’


Which explains

The Cyclical Rise and Fall of Bureaucracy

While at the same time answering the age-old question:

“What happened to the Maya?”





“The Mayas were intelligent; they had a highly developed culture. They left behind not only a fabulous calendar but also incredible calculations. They knew the Venusian year of 584 days. . . ” (p.55)

Von Daniken, Erich. Chariots of the Gods? Bantam Books: New York.


For years people wondered where did these peaceful geniuses go.  Did the mother ship come down and carry them back to Jupiter or wherever peaceful geniuses come from?  Did they evolve into a higher state of being? 

All this wondering provided the gist for popular speculation and pseudoscientific pontification for many years or at least until Yuri Valentinovich Knorosov and other linguists translated the Mayan language.  Then it was learned that they might not have been so peaceful after all, and as a matter of fact they may have been one of the most warlike of all peoples.  And low and behold archeological data began to supply the required evidence and the problem was solved: the Mayan had destroyed themselves in an orgy of fire and arrows.  It all seemed so neat, scientific, and profitable.

Then some smart aleck historian, who also happened to be an organizational leadership researcher, made the mistake of interviewing some of the Native Americans who today make-up a sizable portion of the population of Guatemala and Mexico who happen to look surprisingly like the people depicted in the Mayan bas-reliefs.  And inconvenient as it may seem once all this speculation, pontification, and general wondering had made several careers and helped some otherwise starving publishers buy much needed yachts and mansions this eager young researcher emerged from the wilds ofNorthern Arizona and declared, “The Maya had NOT disappeared after all.” 

“What!”  Cried the popular speculators. 

“Away with him!”  Yelled the enraged pseudoscientific pontificators. 

“Quick, have him write a book about it!”  Yelled the copious publishers from their thousand foot yachts docked outside their hundred room mansions.

Since it is impossible to categorically answer the question, “What?”  And since no one really ever feels like following the Red Queen’s advice and conveniently being, “Away withed.”  I figured I might as well at least write an article and do my little part to help keep poor, disadvantaged publishers supplied with at least enough caviar, truffles and European blended coffees to avert any relief from the high cholesterol and gout which serve as their red badge of courage.

So where did the Maya go?  To quote one of my sources, “We got tired of giving those guys all our corn to build pyramids so we moved to the next valley and kept our corn for ourselves or something like that.”

This somehow brings me to the breakthrough Organizational Leadership concepts that should make my career as a leadership expert and hopefully get me an invitation to sip European coffee and eat truffles on one of those yachts. 

Are you ready? 

Here they come:

  1. Bureaucracy is a good thing.
  2. History supports the theory that bureaucracy is fundamental to the human condition
  3. Bureaucracies all start out as pyramids with a large base, a small peak, and a proportional center, which adequately supports the top and adequately covers the base.
  4. Bureaucratic pyramids all eventually become diamonds as they bloat in the middle.
  5. All organizational diamonds eventually collapse due to the bloated weight of the expanded center.
  6.  The top is always lost in the crash. 
  7. A majority of the center plunges back to the base.
  8. The natural leveling process of change never leaves a level playing field.
  9. A new peak immediately appears because there is always a point that rises above the field.
  10. The remaining middle coalesces to support the new peak in order to accentuate and solidify its difference from the base.
  11. Another pyramid establishes itself on the ruins of the preceding one. 

I call this Owens’ Law of the Oscillating Pyramid.  I propose that this Law explains the cyclical rise and fall of bureaucracy.  This Law is based upon observation and research and upon the fact that eventually the costs outweigh the benefits and someday, somewhere someone is going to yell, “I’m not giving you anymore of my corn to build pyramids!”

The collapse of the Soviet Union provided a perfect example of this phenomenon.  For decades, this highly bureaucratic “Evil Empire” had enforced its rule by giving benefits to one group (the communists) to brutalize and dominate other groups (everyone else).  As the model predicted the Soviet system admitted more and more people into the middle of the pyramid thus bloating the mid-level brutalizers and increasing the number of people who supposedly had a stake in the system.  But unfortunately for the Evil Empire the inefficiencies of the system didn’t allow the pyramid to provide the material advantages needed to continue the inflation nor to even sustain the growing weight of the middle level.  Therefore with no incentive to continue supporting the regime the pyramid collapsed.

Bureaucracy = hierarchical structure, division of labor, written rules, and records. 

This has been evident since the beginning of time. 


Revolution every generation

Revolutionary youth becoming Reactionary adults

Luther from 99 theses to peasant revolt

British bureaucracy “the ministry” goes on though ministers may come and go.

Pyramids are made of pyramids, each department or group has a head, and each head is supported by layers. 

When a pyramid falls these component pyramids tend to seek independence (Chinese mandarins – Roman Empire) and then they begin to coalesce into succeeding pyramids, such as exemplified by the successive Egyptian and Chinese dynasties or the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne.

Signs that the end of a pyramids cycle is approaching:

  • “I was just following orders,”  or “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” as an excuse for doing things that common sense tells us are foolish. 
  • Malicious obedience.  When a subordinate follows the nonsensical orders of superiors in the hopes that doing so will bring about change.
  • Geritocracy.  Look at Congress.  Almost automatic re-election ensures a constantly aging pool of leaders with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

In modern American society we have moved from Trueman’s “The buck stops here,” to Clinton’s “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.?’ ”  From Bill Gates leading an industry to change the world to octegenarian politicians whose secretary’s have to turn on their computers deciding what shape that industry should take.

At the time of the American Revolution there was no direct taxation there was instead taxes on various transactions which in total added up to a miniscule percentage of their income.  Today, for many it is now over 50%.  How much corn are we willing to give to those we don’t trust to do things we don’t want?  How long can this continue?  We are spending the money of the unborn to pay for the repose of the unproductive.  This is the ultimate expression of taxation without representation.

The Oscillating Pyramid Cycle:

Formless base – pinnacle dominated true pyramid – bloated middle diamond shaped twin pyramid – out of balance wobble (component pyramids strive for increasing individual autonomy) – collapse

Historical opportunity to break this cycle:

The Israelites at Mt.Sinai.  Instead they reject God’s offer to reinstate a personal relationship and demanded that Moses build them a social pyramid instead.

Proposed Exception to the Rule:

Steady-state primitive (Neolithic, pre-agriculture) societies both ancient and modern have been advanced as being different then the cultures of the present and therefore by implication exempt from this theory of bureaucratic/organizational structure.  There is not enough social or organizational data to make informed statements about unknown cultures.  Every one that has been extensively studied and reported on exhibited the pyramidal, hierarchical social structure and rule based operation even if a lack of writing precluded the development of true bureaucracy.

Long running societies (China, India, and Rome) exhibit this oscillating character within the ebb and flow of civil war and dynastic change.

In modern democracies, elections are designed to provide stability through a peaceful, periodic change in the pinnacle thereby allowing the base to exert influence and buy into the existence of the pyramid through nationalism.  Economic self-interest has also become a major factor in modern democracies.  Periodic major changes, Andrew Jackson, FDR, etc. change the tenor but not the shape as the middle continues to bloat.  Modern democracies are still too new of a phenomenon to contend that they will break the pattern and at the moment they appear to be textbook cases of its operation.

Change of focus for modern consideration: Bureaucracy is a GOOD thing.  The oscillating nature of its natural life cycle should be understood, recognized, appreciated, and factored into current calculations for what it is, the natural course of human organization.  Change is a constant component of life. 

So the next time you’re standing in line to renew whatever permit happens to need renewing at the time tell yourself that, “Bureaucracy is a GOOD thing.”  Tell yourself that about a thousand times as you wait for the clerk who has been standing at the window for ten minutes waiting to open the window at exactly 9 AM and not one second sooner.  And as your mind numbs through this exercise you can comfort yourself with the thought, “Eventually all pyramids fall,” as you fight to keep yourself from standing on a chair and yelling,


Then again as every pyramid falls another takes its place. That is Owens’ Law of Oscillating Pyramids.


Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ © 2011 Robert R. Owens  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens



I propose that Owens’ Law explains the cyclical rise and fall of bureaucracy. 



Liberty or Civility?

I saw a political cartoon today that has Patrick Henry saying, “Give me liberty or give me civility.” The apparent point being that civility is a limit on liberty. There is a saying that people in the old west tended to be rather polite, because everybody was armed; to the degree that is true, people voluntarily limited the offensiveness of their speech as a matter of prudence. The reality is that anything that governs any action is a limit on liberty, which is why the Founding Fathers held the idea of limited government as a basic tenet of the foundation of our republic.

There is a balance that should be maintained between complete freedom to say and behave in any way a person chooses and in civility and polite behavior. Politeness and civility come from a person’s upbringing and the social culture of society.

When I was a child, in the 1950’s, society was considerably more polite than it is today, not only in speech, but in grooming, dress, and general behavior. Men were careful of their personal appearance, were chivalrous, tipping their hats (everyone wore a hat), stepping aside to allow others to pass on the sidewalk, holding doors for women, children, and the elderly, and watching their language in public.

The big change to this came from the younger members of my generation in the late sixties and seventies. Inspired by left-leaning professors, it started with college students who refused to honor the draft, developed into opposition to the Viet Nam war; running counter to traditional patriotic support of our soldiers during time of war. This bloomed into the hippy era, drug culture, free love, abortion rights, women’s rights, environmentalism, and a general anti-establishment philosophy. They rose up in a mass rebellion against pretty much every social and moral more of the time.

From the close of World War II, the Soviet Union was very actively working to foment this type of unrest through agents and contacts in the American Communist Party, the Socialist Party, labor unions, the universities, and the media. These have elevated extremism to mainstream politics via left wing groups from followers of Alinsky, SDS, Acorn, and various other “community organizations” and radical groups.

The McCarthy hearings of the early fifties identified some of this activity, but concentrated most on the film industry, where they were fairly successful in disarming that propaganda effort. The irony of the Soviet success in placing socialist plants and creating civil unrest was that, while they ended up succeeding beyond their original hope, it did not cause a push for Soviet style communism, but instead a push toward greater liberty; almost, but not quite, an anarchy type of freedom.

There were some very good things that came from all this. Freedom of speech and expression were given a greater emphasis than ever before. Women gained equality in the workplace and a greater say in the political and civic arena. Citizens became openly hostile toward public corruption and cronyism. Industrial pollution and toxic waste has been reduced by probably 90%.

Business has been changed from the type X labor/management conflict model to a more win/win approach. Families have switched from a rigid patriarchal style, to more of a partnership with greater parental involvement with children. All these are examples of the good that came out of this period of unrest.

However, there were almost an equal number of bad things that came from this period; it was a sort of a “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” situation. The polite civility of our parent’s generation didn’t completely disappear, but it was badly damaged and greatly reduced.

The use of slang, poor grammar, and of aggressive, offensive, and threatening language greatly increased. Self-discipline and personal accountability have been replaced with selfish hedonism and victimization. The concept of earning respect was replaced with deserving respect. Our children have been raised to believe that competing is bad, and winning isn’t important; everybody deserves the same reward regardless of personal effort and performance.

Political correctness has created a society unable to address differences between cultures, races, or other social distinctions, while at the same time destroying the concept of the American social “melting pot.” We now have Afro-, Hispano-, Asian-, etc. Americans who believe the culture and values of their homeland or racial group is more important than their identity as Americans. We have inadvertently created a new type of segregation.

So in addition to the many good things, the history of the Baby Boomers and their children has created all kinds of bad fall-out. Examples are extremely high rates of birth out of wedlock, huge numbers of abortions, huge numbers of single parent families, widespread use of drugs, illogical environmental and social laws, great loss of heavy industry, tremendous growth in government and the taxes required to support it, and a less civil, more crude society.

A second irony is the left accusing the right of using violent rhetoric when the use of extreme aggressive violent language, hyperbole, rhetoric , and imagery has been an invention and mainstay of the left; they are now accusing a much more mild right, in particular the Tea Party and talk radio, of abusing freedom of speech with excessive use of violent language. For any liberal to make such an accusation is not only ironic, but also hypocritical.

Personally, I would like for people on all sides of the political spectrum to avoid aggressive language and instead endeavor to express their ideas and opposition with more accuracy and less emotion. I don’t think this will really happen, because the left is steeped in the concept of using every crisis to drive an emotional following to a loud attack on their opposition.

I recently stated that I dislike seeing the Republicans “playing nice” with the Democrats; and I definitely feel that way. I think the Republicans need to respect the right of the Democrats to their opinions, but I also think Republicans need to strongly counter those damaging and anti-American ideas.

Modern politics is more clearly than ever aligned between not just conservative and liberal, but right and wrong. The conservatives are simply right, and the liberals are simply wrong, and there is nothing in that to compromise. I would rather see congress unable to ever pass another law than to pass one more law that will hurt our country.

Liberal Tea Party

An example of left-wing civility

Be thankful this holiday weekend that you don't live in Ireland or Greece.

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