Ask me anything about Bureaucracy

John-Michael Kuczynski
Mar 10, 2018

A bureaucracy is a pseudo-functional organization whose behavior mimics that of a legitimately functional organization, and bureaucrat is a pseudo-functional person whose behavior mimics that of a legitimately functional person. Because bureaucracies merely pretend to discharge the functions that they claim to discharge, they end up behaving defensively and obstreperously towards people who go to them actually expecting them to discharge those functions. A bureaucracy is an organization whose identity is a script-based faux-identity, and the same is true of the bureaucrat. Bureaucratism is the number one threat to our quality of life: just technology seems to be emancipating us, bureaucracy is enslaving us, almost as though bureaucrats and bureaucrats were aware of, and afraid of, the prospect of our being able to enjoy freedom. I have studied bureaucracies and bureaucrats for many years, and I would like to share what I have to say about them with you. So ask me anything about them!

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You mentioned having OCD when you were 14. What kind of OCD did you have? How did you cope with it?
Mar 14, 9:43AM EDT0

I didn't cope. It was horrible. It tooks years to regain psychological functionality.

Mar 14, 5:04PM EDT0
What was it like to study psychoanalysis from your psychoanalyst? Did you ever get confused between the role of the therapist and the role of the teacher?
Mar 13, 3:15PM EDT0

Actually, it was decidedly not confusing, since, having had me as a patient, he was able to integrate abstract doctrinal points into facts about my experience that I could relate to. 

Mar 13, 5:32PM EDT0
What true crime novel are you reading at the moment? Who wrote it?
Mar 13, 5:14AM EDT0

"Confessions of a Wall Street Insider" by Michael Kimelman. It is a true autiobiographical story of a guy who got caught up in a giant anti-insider trading sting and was the victim of serious legal injustices. It's a great read. Here is the link:

I actually tried to get Michael Kimelman to be an instructor (of Finance) at Philosophypedia, but he didn't respond to my invite.

Mar 13, 5:47AM EDT0
Who is your favourite philosopher, the one philosopher whose philosophies make the most sense to you?
Mar 13, 2:30AM EDT0

Schopenhauer---because he has such a cynical and real outlook.

Mar 13, 3:33AM EDT0
Do you agree with all of Freud's theories? Which ones particularly resonate with you?
Mar 12, 2:40PM EDT0

One insight of Freud's that particularly resonated with me was his point that symptoms are surrogates for repressed actions. Consider, for example, the man who unconsciously hates his mother and deeply resents having to take care of her. But he tells himself that he loves her, and this is what he consciously believes. To this end, he is so assiduous in his attentions to her that he smothers her, micromanaging her existence to the point where the latter becomes torture. Do I agree with all of Freud's contentions? I would not say so. Although I believe that sexuality is important, I don't think it has quite the significance that Freud ascribes to it. I believe that much of psychopathology that Freud ascribes to sexual repression is really a consequence of repression of aggression, which is often alloyed with sexuality. But, so I believe, it is the aggression per se, not the sexuality that serves as a vehicle for it, that, by being repressed, is causing the trouble. 

Mar 12, 9:37PM EDT0
What are some of the negative psychological traits that define most bureaucrats and do you believe a bureaucrat can be cured of his psychosis?
Mar 11, 10:33AM EDT0

A bureaucrat is somebody who follows an institutional script, instead of following his own judgement. Bureaucrats think in terms of procedures, as opposed to substance. They think in terms of rules, not principles. They are devoid of all noble sentiments, and are driven only by spite and ill-will. They seem to be aware of their smallness and also of the inability to do anything about it. At the same time, a bureaucrat has no desire to not be a bureaucrat and therefore cannot be 'cured' of his condition.

Mar 11, 3:17PM EDT0
Is it possible to have a democratic and political nation without bureaucracy and what are some of your suggestions to achieve this?
Mar 11, 8:50AM EDT0

Wherever there are institutions of scale, there is bureaucracy. There is no such thing as a perfectly efficient mechanism, and this is no less true in the realm of politics than it is in the realm of physics. But some political configurations are more bureaucracy-free than others. In terms of how to achieve this, I think that digitizing education will go a long towards it. I think that people acquire a 'taste' for a bureaucracy, and an excessive degree of tolerance for it, while they are being 'educated' in school, where almost all of the instruction they are given is bureaucratic pseudo-instruction. And I think that if people were homeschooled, by being given individualized cyber-instruction, as opposed to non-individualized instruction in a classroom, they would see how efficient non-collective, non-bureaucratic educational environments are and, armed with that benchmark in mind, they would thus have a healthy contempt for bureaucracy. And this sentiment, if sufficiently widespread, would inhibit the growth of bureaucracy.

Mar 11, 3:21PM EDT0
In what ways have people opposed your views of bureaucracy, and what other forms of media have you used to distribute your opinions regarding bureaucrats?
Mar 11, 8:17AM EDT0

My views on bureaucracy have been opposed by bureaucrats, and only by bureaucrats. And when they were opposed, it was by bureaucrats who wanted to restrict the free play of human judgment and intuition by imposing more rules on human activity and, specifically, on the use of independent judgment. As for the media that I have used, it was typically me lecturing in a classroom or me lecturing online, in settings such as this one. I also have an anti-bureuacracy podcast

as well as an anti-bureuacracy YouTube channel:

Mar 11, 3:26PM EDT0
In your opinion, what would happen to society if bureaucracy were to be eradicated?
Mar 11, 5:21AM EDT0

Bureaucracy would immediately recrudesce. But so long as it didn't, people would feel 10,000 lbs lighter and life would be better. 

Mar 11, 5:37AM EDT0

Thanks for hosting this AMA! It feels like Bureaucracy sustains itself through meaningless process; that is, innumerable procedural hurdles that feign legitimacy but actually exhaust those seeking accountability. How can we break through that cycle to hold bureaucrats' feet to the fire?

Mar 6, 1:41PM EST0

Hi Harvard! First of all, thank you for the comment! I appreciate the boost! The way to break through the cycle is to optimize our institutions, particularly our educational institutions. And the way to do that is to digitize them, i.e. convert them from brick and mortar institutions into online institutions. It is very easy for bureaucrats to infiltrate brick and mortar institutions, simply because such institutions have enormous legal and administrative overhead and therefore have lots of inefficiency-based nooks and crannies in which bureaucrats can burrow. But it is very hard for bureaucrats to infiltrate online institutions. I myself am--virtually at this very moment--creating an online which I offer one-on-one courses (taught by experts) of five times the quality as the corresponding brick-and-mortar university courses, and at one fifth the cost (or one tenth, actually). Brown University costs $54,000/year (just tuition). And this is for rather shoddy and decidedly non-individualized classes. The University of Rhode Island costs $20,000 (just tuition...and comparably shoddy and non-individualized instruction). In terms of holding bureaucrats' feet to the fire, there is no legal or administrative way to do this, since taking legal or administrative action against bureaucrats would itself create and require lots of bureaucracy. But by streamlining the provision of goods and services, especially of education-related ones, bureaucrats will be out on their rear ends. Go ahead and check out this link:

Last edited @ Mar 6, 2:16PM EST.
Mar 6, 2:07PM EST0

A certain degree of Bureaucracy seems inevitable (to me) in a civilization. Are there ways to streamline existing forms of bureaucracy in Western Civilization to make them more functional and efficient?

Mar 2, 8:02PM EST0

Yes, a 'certain' degree is inevitable. But a bureaucracy cannot be made efficient, since a bureaucracy is by definition an inefficiency. What can be done is to minimize bureaucracy. And the way to do that is to digitize education--is to provide individualized, high-quality instruction online, where outcomes are measured by institution-external (as opposed to institution-internal) standards. And this is what I am doing. 

Mar 2, 11:42PM EST1

When did John-Michael Kuczynski decided to enroll in the Bureaucracy business and why exactly is that you’ve studied this field?

Feb 27, 4:35PM EST0

I am not in the bureaucracy-business. I am in the anti-bureaucracy business. I am in the business of eliminating bureaucracy. And I did not choose this business; it chose me. I wanted to become a writer and thinker and professor--and I did. But every step of the way, some bureaucracy was trying to thwart me. Bureaucracy tried to prevent from acquiring ability in the first place. When it failed, it tried to prevent from getting credentials. When that failed, it tried to prevent me from teaching. When that failed, it cut off financial support. When that succeeded, I realized that I had to make education available in a way that did not involve bureaucracy or bureaucracy-related costs. And I found such a way and I am putting it together. My mini-university is already available at:

Feb 27, 6:56PM EST0
Do you actually contemplate individual freedom as a result of Bureaucracy?
Feb 27, 3:59PM EST0

When bureaucracies are around, things happen slowly and predictably. When they are not aro around, things happen quickly and unpredictably. So far as bureaucracies do good, it is by creating stable conditions in which there is security and predictability.

Feb 27, 6:59PM EST0
What were you looking forward when considering to create this specific #PoliticsAMA? Would you say you’re trying to make people grasp Bureaucracy?
Feb 27, 3:05PM EST0

Yes, and I am thereby trying to make people aware of the need for streamlined, non-bureaucratic educational services, such as I am providing at: 

Feb 27, 6:57PM EST0
Have you been a contributor of any political-related organizations, activities or such in recent years?
Feb 27, 7:51AM EST0

I am not particularly political and have done next to nothing in the way of contributing to any political organizations. I did attend a couple of events hosted by the Republican Party, since I am a strong supporter of Donald Trump. I support Trump precisely because, whatever else he may be, he is not a bureaucrat and because he clearly wants to de-bureaucratize the USA. Both of the major parties in the United States are old and decrepit and are staffed with line-toeing bureaucrats, and Trump is not a bureaucrat. And that is why I support him. I support practically anyone who, unlike a bureaucrat, has actual values.

Feb 27, 1:14PM EST0
Has this political view affected your life or the lives of your relatives in any way? Did all of what you’ve learnt payed-back regarding your personal issues?
Feb 27, 4:42AM EST0

I don't know that my views have particularly alienated anyone in my family, which, in general, has been supportive of (though only to a small degree understanding of) my various views over the years. But I have seen a couple of family members turn into bureaucrats. I saw them basically sell out and die inside, their once vital personalities replaced by robotic, bureaucratic replications thereof. 

Feb 27, 1:16PM EST0
How did you become a Psychoanalyst and Philosopher? Could you guide us through your early years of studies?
Feb 26, 9:36PM EST0

I have always been a deeply inquisitive and curious person. When I was five, my parents used to joke about how often I would ask questions. (And I still do!) Then, when I was around 14 or so, I had terrible OCD and a variety of other difficulties of various kinds. Not knowing where to turn for answers, I initially read a lot of philosophy, believing that I find answers to the various questions about the mind that I had. Philosophy did not provide me with those answers, but in the process of studying it, I became intensely interested in it for its own sake, leading to a life-long passion for the subject. Then when was 18, I first read Freud--and the answers I was looking for were right there, stated with complete precision. Then some of my erstwhile problems recrudesced, which took me off course for around three years. At that point, I made a partial recovery and underwent intense psychoanalysis. I had an excellent analyst and then proceeded, with him as my mentor, to study psychoanalysis formally. And the rest is history.

Feb 27, 1:21PM EST0
Could you name any Bureaucrat that has actually done something right for his/her country?
Feb 26, 9:35PM EST0

Bureaucrats don't really 'do' anything. If they did, they wouldn't be bureaucrats. Bureaucrats are simply there, drifting with the winds of social influence. So in answer to your question---no: No bureuacrat has ever made positive contributions. But many a bureaucrat has done a lot of harm. I actually believe that Stalin and Mao were arch-bureaucrats. (Trotsky said that 'Stalinism represents the bureaucratization of the Russian Revolution.') I believe that these people did so much harm because, being bureaucrats, they were creatively barren and, when confronted with a problem, could only respond mechanically and unintelligently--by killing people and hiding behind institutional lies: by being bureaucrats, in other words. 

Feb 27, 1:24PM EST0
What would you consider your field or industry to be? Are you striving to do anything that hasn’t been done yet regarding Bureaucracy’s awareness?
Feb 26, 6:37PM EST0

The bureaucracy that is causing the most problems is the educational bureaucracy. The way around this is to create an online service whereby top people teach students one-on-one. The objective is to have individualized instruction with experts, as opposed to non-individualized instruction with non-experts. This can be done. And I am in the process of doing it. I personally will be teaching around 20 of these courses, many of which are already available at: 

Feb 26, 8:06PM EST0
Has Karl Marx’s theories helped in the process of developing the whole concept of Bureaucracy? And, does that amalgamates this theory to the communist one?
Feb 26, 11:23AM EST0

To be blunt--no. Not only have Marx's theories done absolutely nothing to illuminate the concept of bureaucracy. They have, when implemented, led to massive bureaucracies. Marxism, in practice, is bureaucratism: state-bureaucratism. By prohibiting free exchange, Marxism transfers everything, including all power, into the hands of state bureaucrats. As for Marx's theories, I don't recall him ever so much as referencing bureaucrats or bureaucracies. For him, the villain is the so-called 'capitalist', whom he does not clearly distinguish from the entrepreneur. 

Feb 26, 2:38PM EST0