DON GOLDMAN, who has been a proud bureaucrat for 13 years, claims in a recent Outlook article that he and his fellow bureaucrats are real people, "little different from those who sell appliances, heal people, run restaurants, work in factories or schools or law offices."
But there is, I think, more than a little difference. People who try to sell me an appliance or a meal are nice to me. People who work in factories do not require that I fill out forms or inspect my property; those who heal me want me to be healthy and comfortable; those who work in schools can often read and write clear English; and lawyers are defense against government harrassment. Bureaucrats are not like this at all.
Goldman says that bureaucrats "may just be better informed about, and at least as sensitive to, current opinion" as real people. I doubt this, and he offers no evidence to support such belief.
Speaking as a bureaucrat, Goldman says, "We don't spend all our time cheating on sick leave or writing indicipherable regulations." This is true, I think, for I know that some spend part of their time writing badly written letters to harass small town officials and private citizens; they also go on junkets, attend conventions and write simpering articles for newspapers. I think they should take more sick leave.
Of course, as Goldman says, they are only doing what they are told, carrying out "the multiple jobs that the Congress orders us to do." I never knew a bureaucrat who did not speak of his agency's mandate. The word "mandate" is a great favorite with bureaucrats, and Goldman could scarcely avoid using it. Bureaucrats have mandates, he says.
He admits that "some" regulations (he familiarly calls them "regs") are unintelligible, unnecessary and "downright foolish," but this, he says, only proves that bureaucrats are as human as "our neighbors who build cars, repair the plumbing or create situation comedies." While we have no auto magnate or playwright in our neighborhood, we do have a plumber, and he is demonstrably better at his job than the bureaucrats in the Water Control Board.
Goldman asks us to sympathize with the frustrations of bureaucrats. A bureaucrat's life, he assures us, is not a happy one. His job "isn't easy"; he is not paid as much as nonbureaucrats. "The devising of fair, workable and legally defensible rules and regulations is not a simple task . . . We are Congress' whipping boy." And even the president "ran against us all." Many a Post reader must have wiped away a tear.
To Goldman and his buddies, we taxpayers say: Stop whining and try to be human. Realize that you are not at all like us. You are different. Try to forgive us our ignorance when we do not understand your "regs," when we fail to complete your forms, when we stumble over your mandates. Then, when you yourself goof, we might be more forgiving. We might even -- who knows? -- learn to like you.