In an article originally titled “Female-named hurricanes kill more than male hurricanes because people don’t respect them, study finds,” later changed to “Female-named hurricanes probably do NOT kill more people than male hurricanes,” a Washington Post journalist cited a 2014 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that has since been critiqued and rebutted.
We have a lot of negative associations with bureaucracies. They can be alienating, impersonal, and dehumanizing for both workers and those being served by the bureaucracy. For being ‘rational,’ they can be quite inefficient, with ‘red tape’ and limited effectiveness when flexibility is needed. Bureaucratic ritualism is when there is such a focus on the rules and regulations to the point of undermining goals and loosing sight of the larger picture. There can also be a problem of a self perpetuating oligarchy, or the rule of many by few, concentrating power and weakening accountability.
All of these problems can be seen in the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. From local individuals and the Canadian government responding faster than the United States, to the neighboring parish (Louisiana has instead of counties) refusing admittance from New Orleans, there was a bureaucratic breakdown in government. When trained people from other areas tried to volunteer to help, FEMA had them hand out pamphlets and fliers.
Though it is worth watching in its entirety (parts I&II, parts III & IV), Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts explores the problems between state and federal government bureaucracies from 1:19:02 to 1:42:18.
Most are familiar with Milgram’s experiments in obedience, whereby he found many people will follow orders of those (who seem to be) in authority.
A modern example can be found in the South Korean MV Sewol shipwreck in 2014, resulting in the death of 304 people. The passengers were primarily school students who were told by crew to stay where they were.
image from DailyMail.co.uk