Well, your teacher spends part of each day as a bureaucrat. His job is to teach, but he has to spend some time taking attendance. This ensures that all students are accounted for, and those that are not get reported to the central bureaucrat(s), who call to see if the student is hurt or sick, or why they aren't in class. So the value of the bureaucracy to here is to ensure accountability and safety of students. Your teacher probably has to spend some time talking about school safety or processes, which, while it is teaching something, probably isn't what the principal focus of the class is about...but, hopefully it helps students prepare for an event, or be safe in some manner or another.
Do you have a job? If so, I bet someone interviewed you, checks your timecard, and pays you on a regular basis. Those people (human resources and accountants) don't "produce" anything, like a factory floor worker or a kitchen staff -- they are bureaucrats. Perhaps you work at a restaurant, and the chef does some of those functions, but when he or she is doing those, he or she is NOT cooking, so they are performing bureaucratic functions. My point is, the value of bureaucracy is pretty much the very functioning of a modern society. Ever since we started plowing fields, we started having "bean counters" of one sort or another, and our economy has come to the point that we have few generalists (no longer can someone merely be "an engineer," they will be a civil, structural, mechanical, software, aerospace, or any of hundreds of different discrete engineering specialties), and that we must have both private and government technicians and specialties that were not dreamed of even 5 decades ago.
As for the cost of bureaucracy, it will depend on how you define cost. Is it the simple dollars? Or are there other externalities that ought to be considered? A military (the largest segment of our governmental bureaucracy) is only needed during war time, but must be maintained to some extent during peacetime. Regardless of war or peace, the military has no "return on investment," thus its cost is 100?so how do you calculate its value? When a naval ship escorts a tanker out the Gulf of Aden, we can calculate the tons of diesel burned and man-hours required, but should we charge the oil companies a fee equivalent to that, or should that come from the taxpayers pockets? Are there other values at work that are not ultimately dollars-and-cents? When a food inspector goes into a manufacturing facility and finds a minor infraction, is the hours of time spent by the inspector, and/or the minutes/hours/dollars figure of downtime to the factory the only considerations, or is the potential health implication of hundred, thousands, or perhaps even millions of people calculable?
So, then, what is the cost of bureaucracy? Well, I've worked for a few different engineering firms, and they bill out at 3 times their wage (plus or minus). So, if engineer A makes $50 per hour, then the client will pay the firm $150 per hour of that engineer's time. As such, in a cold calculation, the bureaucracy is costing $100 per hour (benefits, office rent, air conditioning, etc.) Of course, that leaves out the small bit about the engineer himself being a bureaucrat, since he or she only produces the design for whatever is to be built. So, how about a retail store? A book costs pennies to manufacture (in terms of raw materials and press and binding), but paying for editors, artists, transportation, and warehouses, that book costs $4 or $5 to the retailer, and will ultimately be sold to you, the consumer, for around $10. So, the bureaucracy (which includes profit to the shareholders) is arguably costing somewhere between $9 and $10.
So...what is the value and cost of bureaucracy? Like your teacher, I don't have the answers, either. But I can tell you, the answers aren't simple equations, and the answers are probably different from person to person. I think the Curiosity rover to be beyond price, but I have friends who think we shouldn't be spending money going to other planets when we have huge economic problems on this one. In your estimation, what is the value of anything NASA does? It is a bureaucracy, and huge discoveries have come through NASA. I can provide the annual budget of NASA since its first year, but would those numbers constitute its cost or its value? Or partially both...or neither? Ever been to a national park? What is the value of having environments and historical places preserved? Can that value be calculated only in dollars and cents? Can you even define a dollar value for things such as the Grand Canyon, the Appomattox Court House, or the USS Arizona?
Okay, I'll stop. I hope I've given you something to think about.
Answered By: golgafrincham - 9/1/2012