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What's the Point of the Administrative Class?

What’s the Point of the Administrative Class?


The administrative class – at all levels, in all organizations – portrays itself as indispensable.

Nothing would get done without the smooth operation of the internal mechanics of a company, a government agency, any group you care to mention. Tasks must be performed, memos sent, regulations and procedures codified. 

And plans must be – and are – made just in case something goes awry. In theory.

But if society has learned anything over the past five or so years, it is that emergency plans are not implemented; they are tossed aside in moments of panic when they are most needed. 

The point of the administrative class – the bargain the public has with it – is that it makes sure to run as smoothly as it can and is ready for the unexpected.

But it never is – time after time we have seen supposedly professional members of the nomenklatura either go tharn or embarrassingly and loudly and incompetently clusterfluster when the calm guiding hand of experience – the hand administrators claim they are – is most needed.

From college to Covid, administrators have consistently and utterly failed to respond in the manner expected, in a manner that alleviates the problem.

Columbia University, UCLA, and USC all have rules and regulations and guidelines that have been thoroughly digested and created by the ever-expanding number of administrators at every college.

Plans exist for how to deal with the recent campus mayhem. But while absurd rules on microaggression and allowable speech and even how to date appropriately and inclusively are zealously enforced, when facing actual physical dangers administrators are stopped in their well-worn tracks, absolutely unsure how to handle an event so, well, real.

Because for all the student gripes and faculty advocacy and silly thoughts and even sillier positions and the layers and layers of bureaucracy created to address non-issues, college is not typically, well, real. It is find yourself time for the kids, it is express yourself time for the faculty, and it is gloriously meaningless minutiae time for the administrators and, in a day-to-day sense, little of it matters – at that time – beyond the campus gate. 

Clearly, terrible ideas bubble up through academia and the long march through the institutions – school to non-governmental organization to corporate management to government agency – has wreaked havoc on society, but none of that originated in the administrative class. It started outside – the classroom, the think tank, the professional agitators, the bored billionaire – and then was inhaled by the administrative impulse, a realization of the possibility of power occurs, and it is exhaled as a work product.

A campus protest is not unusual – the astonishing administrative dithering seen over the past weeks across the country is simply not something that should have happened and would not have happened if those very same administrators had simply followed their own rules and regulations and plans.

But administrators let the intersectional political overtones hamstring the response and whatever level of competence that existed was smothered with the iron pillow of correctness, of not wishing to offend, of being “on the right side of history.”

Despite flattening enrollments in education at all levels, there are literally tens of thousands more administrators than there were just a few years ago. Administrators whose sole job is to talk to other administrators at other agencies, administrators who spend weeks creating diversity codes, administrators who worriedly ponder students’ social media postings, looking for misplaced opinions.

And they have no idea how to confront a problem, even if they spent weeks and months and years creating a detailed plan on how exactly to confront that exact problem.

We know what to do, but, for whatever reason, we can’t decide if we should do it – hence the campus disasters.

This glaring incompetence is not, of course, confined to education. Corporate structures can break down due to meaningless worry about what an action will “mean,” how it will be interpreted. 

This institutional analysis paralysis is unquestionably real and unquestionably damaging.

Of course, government agencies – even those specifically created to handle emergency situations – fare no better in overcoming the 500-pound cement shoes of bureaucracy – and sometimes it is beyond mere incompetence, but actively and aggressively disruptive.

In California, the state bureaucrats have made sure water is not racist, though because people are using less of it it is becoming more expensive. The arts are not racist anymore because state bureaucrats have made sure of that. And state bureaucrats and electeds have made food more expensive so that it’s not racist to the people who make it.

Across the nation, government workers – instead of concentrating on directly serving the public – are attending conferences and seminars and workshops and listening sessions on systemic whatever being put on by parasitical absurdities like GARE – the Government Alliance on Race and Equity. 

One among many, many such groups, GARE teaches administrators how to spot problematic non-problems and – very importantly – explain to the public why these non-problems that didn’t even have names 38 minutes ago must take precedence over approving building plans or filling potholes or catching criminals.

There are a number of reasons for this phenomenon. First, it’s really, really easy. Imagine you are an administrator – would you rather sit through a catered lunch presentation about, for example, how white people are evil and if you are white you need to be less evil and then you promise to be less evil and then drive back to the office feeling stupider and enlightened and resentful at the same time before you turn up the radio and forget whatever was said or would you rather spend a month pouring through plans and documents trying to figure out how to save money on a new road building project? 

And in the end, you get more credit for going to the guilt lunch?

You go to lunch.

Or you fly across the country to an event to talk about talking, or how to better communicate your putative non-incompetence to the public and if the public doesn’t want to listen then it is their fault. Or you can do the same thing sitting in the New York Times newsroom writing about how only stupid trash people don’t believe President Biden when he says the economy is great.

All of that activity is wonderfully easy and incredibly meaningless – two things the entire blob wants everything to always be.

All of these not only unnecessary but actively destructive plans have come from California and the nation’s ruling administrative/lobbyists/union/uniparty blob, but the blob still cannot figure out how to balance a budget, build a road, or keep people safe.

The national Covid pandemic response is a perfect example of a supposedly prepared administrative class that completely failed the public.

Despite various protestations from various now-sheepish officials to the contrary, there was a tried and true and stress-tested plan in the books, on the shelf ready for use on how to handle a pandemic.

Instead, the administrative class threw 100 years of expertise and training and history aside and came up with lockdowns and masks and mandates and personal limitations to movement, to speech, to thought.

Looked at from a relatively innocent viewpoint, the pandemic response was mere administrative incompetence on a scale never seen before. Looked at from a less naïve viewpoint, the sheen of incompetence was a cover for an intentional and massive upending of the norms and structures of a free society for the benefit of a globalist few. Whether or not the incompetence led to the socialite socialist statist opportunity or the opportunity led to the incompetence, as it were, is a question that may never be answered.

On the campuses across the country shuttered by the pro-Hamas protests of late the same can be said. Plans exist. Guidelines exist. The how-to-handle protest issues has been previously digested and put in a binder and put on the shelf for instant access. But it remains on the shelf because of politics and cowardice and, in general, the fact that most members of the administrative class do not know how to deal with anything beyond their day-to-day functions as, well, administrators.

Our state and nation has a massive administrative class that is incapable of doing anything except file its normal paperwork, follow its normal path, and continue to expand its power based on the lie that the public needs it “just in case” there is an emergency.

The public needs the “Deep State” just in case.” The public needs the assistant deputy vice-president for inclusiveness “just in case.” The public needs the byzantine rules and self-serving regulations “just in case.”

Well, “just in case” has been happening nearly every day for the past five years and the administrative class has far from lived up to its claims of necessity, of providing order, of solving problems that need to be solved at a societal level.

So what’s the point of its existence?

Looking at Covid, looking at college, looking at Sacramento, looking at DC, looking at too many C-suites, looking at, well, practically everything the point is pretty hard to find.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Thomas Buckley

    Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore, Cal. a Senior Fellow at the California Policy Center, and a former newspaper reporter.  He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at You can read more of his work at his Substack page.

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