How Much Looting?

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Few
libertarian philosophers and scholars have failed to recognize the
extensive bureaucracy and the effectivity problems that are associated
with big government. But is it fair to claim that big government
is literally out of control? In Sweden, the answer is yes.

Recently
the Swedish government was forced to admit that they simply had
no idea how many government agencies exist. As the major daily papers
took up the issue, the Agency for Public Management were given the
task of performing an official inquiry to find out how many agencies
there were.

One
of the first things the agency did was to call the largest free-market
think tank in Sweden, Timbro, and ask whether they knew. Alas, the
expansion of public bureaucracy has been so rapid in Sweden that
even the opposition to central planning finds it difficult to keep
track of things.

And
so the investigation has been going on for a few months. The results
that were recently released were shocking to say the least. There
are currently 552 government agencies in Sweden, working with important
issues such as making sure that those employed by the merchant fleet
can consume culture or that we might have "handicraft circuses"
(an ongoing project of the committee for handicraft issues).

Looking
at the list of Swedish agencies and having some previous knowledge
of what they spend their funds on, it is perhaps quite understandable
that even our government did not know how many agencies existed
— if you don't do anything worth noticing nobody is going to be
aware of your existence.

The
552 government agencies currently employ 230,976 persons. That corresponds
to over 5,7 percent of those active in the Swedish labor market.
Note that this figure does not include the countless bureaucrats
employed by the 20 county councils and the 290 municipalities in
Sweden. The actual number of Swedish bureaucrats might easily be
over 10 percent of those active in the labor market.

Sweden
has been famous for having fewer problems with bureaucracy and inefficiency
in public institutions than other modern economies. This is most
likely an important factor for why the Swedish welfare state has
been able to become the largest amongst industrialized countries.

However,
it would seem as if not even the strongest protestant working ethics
can stand against the mechanisms of government inefficiency. As
Swedish politicians keep creating new agencies so that their colleagues
and friends can get easy top-paying jobs, the jungle of government
agencies grows more rapid than anybody can keep track of.

November
5, 2005

Nima
Sanandaji [send him mail]
president of the Swedish think tank Captus and the editor of Captus
Journal
. He has been admitted to graduate studies in biochemistry
at the University of Cambridge.

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