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Bureaucracy [Paperback]

Ludwig Von Mises
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1996 091088434X 978-0910884341
Professor von Mises addressed himself to a particular issue: what is the essential difference between bureaucratic management by government and market management in a system based on private ownership of the means of production? Mises does not discuss bureaus or bureaucrats, but inexorable principles of human action. He does not condemn bureaucracy, which is the appropriate technique for the conduct of government agencies such as courts of law, police departments, and the Internal Revenue Service; however, in economic production and distribution, the bureaucratic method is shown to be an abomination that spells universal ruin and disaster.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 137 pages
  • Publisher: Libertarian Press (September 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 091088434X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0910884341
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,047,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perceptive and Concise June 8, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bureaucracy is the clearest and most concise version of the calculation critique of socialism. This books is vastly easier to read that the original 1920 article on socialist calculation. It is far shorter and more focused than Human Action. It is also much shorter than Socialism, an Economic and Sociological Analysis. Mises managed to achieve brevity without sacrificing much important content. Bureaucracy is probably his best written book.

There are many subtleties to this book, but the main points are straightforward. Mises contrasts profit management with bureaucratic management. To Mises Bureaucratic management is necessary as far as a few basic public services are concerned. However, the adoption of socialism would mean the extension of bureaucratic management to all areas of the economy. The problem with this is that bureaucracies are inflexible. Changing economic conditions require the adaptation of production. Entrepreneurs implement changes in production because they seek profit. Mises explains why bureaucrats would act irresponsibly- they are not checked by profit and loss accounting. Since public services lack a cash value as generated by markets the costs of increasing public services are unknown. Bureacratic managers would thus over expand their operations without realizing it. Such bureaucratic excesses must be limited by restrictive rules. Hence bureaucracies lack the flexibility of entrepreneurial capitalism.

Mises also considers psychological and political issues, but these points are not as well developed as his economic arguments. One could see this as a weakness, but those who want a more complete version of the von Mises critique of socialism can read his 1922 book- Socialism.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Written by professor former Vienna Chamber of Commerce economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), Bureaucracy is a classic economic treatise, first published in 1944, about how the efficient aspects of private ownership and control of public good production ultimately produces superior results compared to the mishmash of publically administrated plans laced with codes of "officialdom", government incompetence, unforeseen legal wranglings, graft, and other ills. "Bureaucracy in itself is neither good nor bad," Mises states; rather, bureaucracy is a valuable resource for managing certain spheres of human activity, such as policing and courts of law, yet ultimately a failure or even harmful when applied to private enterprise, simply because forced obedience to strict rules hobbles entrepreneurial managers' room to maneuver amid fluctuating market situations, and stifles their innovation in response to evolving consumer wants. "Under socialism... the beginner must please the already settled. They do not like too efficient newcomers. (Neither do old-established entrepreneurs like such men; but, under the supremacy of the consumers, they cannot prevent their competition.) In the bureaucratic machine of socialism the way toward promotion is not achievement but the favor of the superiors... The rising generation is at the mercy of the aged." As timely and insightful now as it was over half a century ago, Bureaucracy is highly recommended especially for college library and economic studies shelves.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Free-Market Perspective on Big Government September 22, 2000
This is a short economic tract from the acclaimed Austrian economist known for his stern defense of free-markets. Mises' sharp verbal logic and analysis of the adverse affect that bureaucracy, socialism, and a bloated public sector has on the economy. This book is a classic. I recommend reading in tandem with his other classics like Human Action, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, Socialism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shows bureaucracy for what it is. August 26, 2010
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This is an excellent book and a devastating critique against bureaucracy. Even though this book was written in 1944 many of the problems, irritations and false hopes of bureaucracy as outlined in this book are still relevant, if not more so, today. Times may change but bureaucracy does not.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now More that Ever! July 22, 2008
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Length: 7:21 Mins
Ludwig von Mises' stuff is worth reading twice and this book remains highly pertinent today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (1881-1973) was one of the major figures in the Austrian School of economics; Friedrich Hayek was a pupil of his. Mises' major works are Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Third Revised Edition and Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis.

Mises wrote in the Preface to the original (1944) edition of this book, "The main issue in present-day social and political conflicts is whether or not man should give away freedom, private initiative, and individual responsibility and surrender to the guardianship of a gigantic apparatus of compulsion and coercion, the Socialist State... it seems as if an investigation of the expansion of bureaucratic agencies is the most expedient avenue of approach. An analysis of bureaucratism offers an excellent opportunity to recognize the fundamental problems of the controversy."

He admits in the Preface to the 1962 edition that there are some activities where "profit management" can't prevail; for example, "A police department cannot be operated according to the methods resorted to in the conduct of a gainful enterprise." He later added, "There is no yardstick available that could establish whether the expenses incurred by one of (the FBI's) regional or local branches were not excessive." (Pg. 50) You cannot "measure" a judge according to how much time he needs to adjudicate a case (Pg. 56). This leads to his conclusion that "a successful handling of public affairs... cannot be expressed in terms of money," and "Bureaucratic management is management of affairs which cannot be checked by economic calculation." (Pg.
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