If you’ve ever looked for a succinct answer to that question, try the 2-page explanation offered in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (ISI Books, 2006).

Author E.C. Pasour Jr., N.C. State professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics, describes the inherent problems linked to bureucracy.

Among the most interesting passages:

[T]here is nothing in bureaucratic decision-making that corresponds to the profits and losses that influence entrepreneurial decisions in a private property system. In the absence of such signals, decision-makers in government agencies are likely to focus on other goals such as staying in office and agency growth.

To further those goals, Pasour describes how bureaucrats focus on maximizing their budgets, exhasting those budgets by the end of each fiscal year, expanding their jurisdiction, and avoiding the types of risky activities that benefit the free enterprise system.

He also takes aim at the notion that bureucracies can improve through the employment of “better people” as bureaucrats.

The incentive structure of the collective choice process may be compared to the law of gravity. Just as people always fall at thirty-two feet per second, so do individuals tend to respond predictably when confronted with the political incentive structure.

Hence, Pasour asserts changes in the “political and institutional framework” are more likely to yield improvements in government agencies.