Parasitism is a biological phenomenon. One type of organism – a parasite, lives at the expense of another type of organism – a host. An analogous relationship exists between a parasitoid and its host with the only difference being that the parasitoid eventually kills the host. Parasites are capable of changing the behavior of the hosts they infect. For example, toxoplasma-infected rats and mice become less fearful of cats, thus becoming easier prey for them. The role of parasites in nature is important and diverse and modern scientists contend that without parasites the process of evolution would have been much slower.
Despite the dissimilarity in outward appearance, the similarities between the processes going on in human society and biology are clear cut. Various types of organisms interact in nature and parasites are, as a rule, much smaller in size than their hosts. In society the function of parasites are performed by people themselves. In the past, kings, bishops and people of their elevated ilk performed that parasitic function and the scale of this problem was easy to observe. According to economists’ calculations, parasitism in a medieval fiefdom accounted for around 10 percent of the economy at that time.
The essence and the scale of today’s problems first became apparent in the 20th century. In parallel with technological progress, parasitism became manifested in the form of organized state bureaucracy. State bureaucracy has proved to be the most efficient form of parasite known thus far. It has every quality of a parasite in nature: it eats at the expense of society, weakens society and changes its behavior.
What is bureaucracy’s usual activity and why does it exist? The gist of its activity is to establish and then execute compulsory rules. If a ruling political force does not favor compulsory rules, bureaucracy will stay idle and consequently lose its function.
Our daily lives are full of such examples. With the consent of the ruling political force, our bureaucracy with great zeal has developed a compulsory rule for the sale of condoms and, once implemented, the bureaucrats will subsequently oversee compliance with that rule too. The decision about “free” childbirth that has been just announced is another source of joy; we can surely all look forward to the numerous new rules that will be necessary to change the behavior of the people.
It is not difficult to understand why bureaucracy creates compulsory rules. By doing so, it broadens the scope of its activities, legitimizes the official benefits it receives from the host and creates the possibility for obtaining additional informal gains.
When bureaucrats feel that there is a problem in society, their objective is to create as many rules as possible. In their view, the greater the number of established rules, the easier it is to solve a problem. When the situation deteriorates after the enforcement of these rules this again plays into hands of bureaucracy, providing yet another opportunity to invent new rules to tackle the new problems.
Naturally, such metastasizing of bureaucracy would have instantly killed the host were it not for the existence of certain objective and subjective factors which deter parasites. The objective factor is the income, in the form of taxes and bribes, with which the host feeds the parasite. After all, every bureaucrat understands that after a certain point it risks killing the host that sustains it. The subjective factor is those political forces which penetrate the organism of bureaucracy and occupy the high hierarchical ladder. Consequently, the strategy of a political force (especially the ruling elite) and the bureaucracy do not always coincide with each other, especially as bureaucracy is not fond of changes. The political force thus has to perform the function of public relations. After all, as it would often be useless for the political force to defend things that have clearly been damaged by bureaucracy, it instead has to offer changes to society. Were this element of reasonability missing, we would be dealing with a parasitoid rather than a parasite.
Thus, no matter how unfortunate it is, the wellbeing of the parasite and that of the host depends on the interaction between the parasite and a political force.
Georgian attitudes towards Singapore are quite strange. At least ten percent of the population would not have heard of the country at all were it not for the frequent references made to it by our politicians. The former government was fond of citing Singapore because of the country’s fast economic development. However, the political opposition attributed this fondness to the desire of the leaders of the United National Movement to stay in power for as long as the ruling party of Singapore has.
I think that the arguments of both sides are true. There is no place in the world, including Singapore, where people are absolutely free from bureaucracy. In Singapore, where capital punishment is practiced with people being hanged for even minor offenses and where freedom of speech is restricted, the government has still managed to contain bureaucracy and to establish a court which serves as the guarantor of ownership rights. In a system based on meritocracy and not on position held, in Singapore one minister might receive a salary of two million US dollars while another earns four times less. Whereas in the West, bureaucracy takes from 30 to 60 percent of the income of the population in the form of taxes, in Singapore bureaucracy can be sustained by only 15 percent. In comparison, Georgian bureaucrats take twice as much from our pockets as they do in Singapore. Such an attitude has worked economic miracles for Singapore, placing it among the top five richest countries in the world today, even though it has no potable water on its own territory.
There is much to dislike about Singapore, be it, for example, the hanging of people for drug smuggling or the banning of chewing gum in the 1990s. However, I have to admit the fact that – if success in today’s world is measured by economic development alone – Singapore is the world’s most successful country.
In Georgia one could always hear calls – which have recently intensified – for restricting economic activity for the sake of the environment; increasing customs tariffs for the sake of protecting domestic industry; establishing a minimum wage; amending the Labor Code to defend employees’ rights; influencing private companies for the sake of protecting customers’ rights and so on and so forth; let alone the calls for universal health insurance and an increase in social transfers.
The recommendations of international and local experts as well as the majority of initiatives put forward by interest groups and civil society are so damaging for society that the bureaucracy simply cannot wait to be tasked with fulfilling them.
Pragmatically, the political elite, even if only for the sake of saving its own skin, must stop or at least drastically slow down, the activity of bureaucracy. If it fails to do so, it will be doomed to failure itself.
There is an oft-cited experiment for observing how a frog adapts to rising water temperature. If a frog is put in hot water it will instantly jump out of the water, but if it is put in cold water which is gradually heated, the frog will not move as it is slowly boiled. The frog cannot feel a gradual increase in temperature. Over the past few years, we have been like a frog heated over a low fire. Now we may be thrown into boiling water. Who knows what is better?!