Big government: In lieu of a solution, let’s form another committee and make busywork!

October 6, 2010

I’m sorry, folks but I need to go on a rant. Worse, it’s a vaguely political rant. Worse yet, it’s right winged! So bear with me and please DO let me know what you think.

Without going into specifics, I attend a meeting after work that has one primary purpose: helping afflicted people find a solution to a vexing and dangerous problem in their lives. It’s a good thing and I’m proud and privileged to be a member. So much so, I volunteered to be a part of the group’s governance; it’s secretary to be exact. This job requires I take meeting notes, update the phone list and other housekeeping tasks. Fine. I’m happy to do it. Service work is good for the soul. For me it’s necessary.

But then it got weird. At last week’s business meeting we bogged down in our own bureaucracy. One member wanted detailed records from previous meetings. Why? I don’t know. Not much had happened but he said it was “important that we maintain good governance.” Another member wanted one of us to call every single name on the meeting list to codify it. That’s a big homework assignment. I’m thinking why not just pass a pen and paper next meeting and get a short list of current members? “Not acceptable,” replied a meeting journeyman. “We have a process.” Yes we do. Unfortunately.

Needless to say, as secretary for this meeting I began to feel guilty for not doing my job. And something else: I got pissed off. It’s a neighborhood meeting for Christ’s sake. What the hell do we need all this government for? We collect a few bucks. We pay rent. We show up. In my view having precise and meticulous records has nothing to do with helping the sick people who come in. Frankly, it gets in the way. It makes helping feel like a tax instead of a blessing.

And thus I realized the part of me that is and always will be (gasp!) a Republican. In general, I don’t like big government because it consumes time and resources. Specifically, I don’t like big government because it hides its unctuous righteousness behind a screen of altruism: We “care” therefore we’re right. But not once during our 45-minute business meeting did anyone talk about how we were going to improve care to those in need. Instead it was all about finding busywork for an overabundance of dubious jobs.

After all that, I come home to a letter from the IRS requesting documentation on some aspect of my 2008 tax return. Argh! I wonder what bureaucrat was fulfilling his or her quota by sending me this intimidating letter. I pay my considerable taxes promptly and with precious few deductions. Now some drone in sector G wants more…

A lot of people might generalize that creative folks are democratic because they’re more soulful and artsy. Lord knows Democrats are friendlier to the arts than their Republican counterparts. Maybe so, but the creative process itself favors a more solitary existence. Less is more. One artist creates novels and paintings not several. Likewise ads made by committee are bound to mediocrity.

I don’t know where this is going. It’s a rant, right? Yet, with a number of big elections in November, I just might be annoyed enough to vote against type…against candidates who mistake process for progress.


18 Responses to “Big government: In lieu of a solution, let’s form another committee and make busywork!”

  1. Jason Fox said

    Actually, Democrats aren’t necessarily friendlier to the arts — they’re just friendlier with government money. I’ve always been conservative, which has often shocked and even dismayed coworkers. Some even think less of my work because of my politics; which, of course, says more about them than anyone else. I’m not a conservative because I don’t want to help people. I’m a conservative because *I* want to help people. Not the government. I’d rather our society fail because we each individually neglected one another than because we handed that responsibility over to bureaucrats. And on a practical level, big gov is just inefficient, as most things with little real accountability are. Mini-rant over.


  2. A lot of people elevate “consensus” over “results.” That’s one of the main reasons it’s so hard to get great ideas approved and produced in the ad business. Groupthink and herd mentality loves process.

    Big Government creates bureaucracy because it can employ more and more people to run the bureaucracy. Thereby ensuring more people will support growing the size of government. Wash, rinse, repeat. BTW, Republicans grew the size of government beyond extreme in the Bush/Cheney years so I’m not sure it’s accurate to label it a “Democrat” problem.

    Also- Appreciation for the arts is a matter of your social class, your education, and your personal interests. Doesn’t have anything to do with political leanings, IMO.

    I’m a former progressive who has converted to Libertarianism over the past year. I’ve been thinking conservative and libertarian advertising people should start a club. Note: no committees, bureaucracy, or central planning allowed.

  3. Hi Steffan,

    I just read you piece again. I don’t know if I have any wings right or left but that’s a whole other can of worms.
    But you are pretty right about government. I don’t volunteer anymore if there’s a group involved. I did/do work for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I deal only with the President (Memphis) I bring her my ideas she’s says yes or no then I go and find people who will help while I boss them around. Only for good. Then we disband until the next time.

    Then I bring my results back to Adrienne. It’s worked well for a long time. My son is named after her and I’ve never heard her say where are your notes and records of our meetings. We don’t have records, e-mail trails or anything else that gets in the way of helping kids. We have the work she needs, that’s it. I would imagine that your situation would call for more people, and more organization, as there are health concerns. Anyway, if you have the time get rid of everyone in a bloodless coup d’etat. Then find some volunteers who you can boss around for a short period of time. Make sure you get people who don’t want to type.

    See you ( I probably wont see you so don’t worry I’m just saying sincerely in my own way) see you

    Yes I’m difficult to understand but if you read on figure my style out you’ll see it’s worthless.

  4. this isn’t really a comment. i just figured i’d subscribe and forgot to do so before. so just don’t even read this comment read the other one which is a real comment.

    sincerely this time

  5. SRP said

    Thanks for the comments guys-
    This was a rant, nothing more.
    Sometimes I just get fed up with participating, supporting or, worse yet, underwriting this sort of crap…that’s all too common.

  6. jim schmidt said

    Ad folks are soulful and artsy? Most ad folks are whiter than dandruff on a polar bear and live in either well-off suburbs or white urban enclaves. And most of what they do is less artful than the average kid’s drawing hanging on a refrigerator. And there are tons of Republican in advertising. The most famous example being the Tuesday Team–Riney, Dusenberry etc, who did all the Reagan work. There’s also the pride of Hico, Texas–Jim Ferguson, who worked on the Bush efforts. I’ve alway found just as many Republicans as Democrats in the biz.

    • SRP said

      Good insights as usual…
      You know I’ve always been fascinated by the demographics of our industry and the creative department in particular.
      Given our vocation is so singularly capitalistic you’d think we’d all be Republicans…yet most creatives tend to be scruffy liberals from Wicker Park.

  7. jim schmidt said

    and as soon as they have enough money it’s goodbye wicker park, hello winnetka. most creatives are unabashed capitalists/republicans–yearning for expensive cars, homes, clothes etc. it’s ironic how much they fall for the bullshit they themselves peddle. half the creatives at any agency spend at least half their time talking about how much other creatives in the biz make. they’re obsessed with it. in their heads they’re liberal/democratic, but in their hearts, they’re republican.

  8. Christine said

    I struggle a bit with your post. Yes, the government could use some trimming (and it should always look for ways to trim to avoid getting more and more bloated) but I get a little annoyed with the over simplification. I realize it’s a rant, but you’ll get bureaucracy no matter what. Who would you like to provide the services that the government currently does? Private business? Last time I checked large companies are just as bureaucratic.

    • SRP said

      You’re right about bureaucracy being everywhere.
      Hence, as you point out, the futility of my rant.
      Still, can’t we mitigate layers just a little -in government and in business?
      I have a feeling Apple and Nike aren’t so bureaucratic.

  9. David Gerbosi said

    I don’t believe there are two parties anymore. Both Republican and Democrats are for Big Government. They just want it to do slightly different things with our money. Here’s the latest bit of freedom we have bought with our taxes…

    (From Bloomberg)

    The U.S. Congress, unable to agree on adopting a budget or extending tax breaks before recessing, found time to take on loud television commercials.

    The Senate unanimously passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act yesterday, which would direct regulators to set limits on the volume of TV ads, before members left Washington to campaign for the Nov. 2 election.

    “Every American has likely experienced the frustration of abrasively loud television commercials,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said today in a statement. “Action in the Senate will help end this annoying practice.”

    Read the whole article here:

    Enjoy your next mix, as dictated by the US Senate.

    Count me in for the libertarian (small L intentional) advertising club.

  10. Gene P. said

    In the ad business, meetings and bureaucracy are the stock in trade of account folks and brand managers. Not creatives. And, in my experience, creatives are more likely to be Democrats, while account folks and clients lean Republican. Ergo, Republicans are the real big government bureaucratic types. Just like in Washington.

    P.S., S.P: being a Democrat and a capitalist are not mutually exclusive. You can still desire to make good coin..and lean left. Socially or fiscally or both.

    Regards and respect – GP

    • SRP said

      You’ve outlined the stereotype for sure: Suits=Republicans & creatives=democrats
      But i wonder if money and seniority changes all that? Jim’s last comment is telling…

      • Gene P. said

        SRP – Thanks. The Republican party could use more reasonable people such as yourself. As opposed to, say, Newt Gingrich, who today said he wants to “brand” Democrats as “the party of food stamps” and Republicans as “the party of paychecks.” What an assh*le.

  11. jim schmidt said

    Gene, hate to disagree, but how can a department with so many titles– junior copywriter, copywriter, senior copywriter, associate creative director, creative director, group creative director, senior group creative director, executive creative director and chief creative officer–be called anything but bureaucratic?
    Have you ever timed how long it takes single ad to get through a large ad agency? They build cars in Detroit faster.

  12. Adron said

    Just to note.

    Many creative types that actually read, study, and are insightful about politics are not Republican or Democrat. Often leaning toward the hard core center of “leave me the hell alone” AKA Libertarian.

    Just sayin’. In the creative circles of Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington I’ve honestly be pleasantly surprised by the open minded, gun toting, anti-drug war, anti-big Government, anti-extra taxes, leave people alone when they’re not hurting anyone Libertarian types.

    Unfortunately its a crap shoot which way to vote, but they’re wonderfully pleasant, awesome, smart, insightful people to work with! 🙂

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