President George W. Bush signs the Homeland Se...

President George W. Bush signs the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2004 on October 1, 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does every civilization contain the seeds of its destruction? Maybe the historians are right when they publish learned tomes describing trends and signals of certain decline in  highly organized cultures. Conservatives sometimes claim when the ‘takers’ out number and out vote the ‘givers’ the end is coming. Maybe, maybe not. Another signal I’ve recently heard is fascination or obsession with spectator sports or games is a sure sign we’re sledding downhill. Again, maybe. I don’t find either of those or a number of others, persuasive.

My own worry is the embedded drive in humans to continue the process of centralization. Defined as combining segments of government, business or religion into fewer and fewer segments where fewer and fewer people make decisions. This process expands the scope of control beyond the ability of anyone to be an effective manager and steward of public funds. It is all part of the desire to make things better. Watch, when things go ‘wrong’ the cry is, put someone in charge. Make someone responsible. 9/11 gave us that opportunity. Something was wrong. How else could such blow strike our homeland? A conservative government, under President Bush, moved to fix the problem. By, of course, putting pieces of government together under a central  control. To start with the pieces of government in their separateness, were not well managed. Many of them were already too large.

Today Homeland Security, is an example of centralizing management until you reach numbing inefficiency. Another example is the DNI organization. The Director of National Intelligence is about the worst fix anyone could have made to improve the collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence. I defy anyone to prove money is being saved or that the product produced has been improved. Top managers of such over centralized organizations don’t have a clue to what is happening in the trenches. Their main concern is often getting enough reporting from the far reaches of their commands to make them look credible, especially when briefing the President or appearing before an aggressive group of journalists or legislators.

Unfortunately both our main political parties are vulnerable to the drive to fix things by centralization. National Health Care or Obamacare, Dodd Frank, over reaches of OPA and the Department of Energy are examples of good intentions leading to disastrous unforeseen consequences.

While some centralization is necessary, decentralization is the sure path to renewed growth and vitality in both business and government. Good people in charge of manageable organizations can fix problems. Over centralization cannot.

by the author of the Jack Brandon thriller series


Filed under complexity, Conservative views, Eight Decades of Insights, Intelligence & Politics, management theory, political solutions, Politics, Terrorism


  1. John Nugent

    Dear Barry: Hi. I think you are exactly on point. Cicero in his writings indicated a similar view:

    “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” (Cicero, 55 BC)

    Similarly, Alexander Tyler in his work in the 1700s indicated that in his research on democracies, no democracy has ever lasted more than 300 and most no more than 200 years. I know the U.S. is technically a Repubic, but it is also a democracy. And as the U.S. just celebrated its 235th birthday last July 4th, it would appear we are in no man’s land.

    This all seems to indicate that no one, not individuals, businesses, industries, nations, civiliazations, beats their respective life cycle.

    Clearly nation/states do not have to pass if they have a leadership that sees the need to adapt and change and takes timely actions. But with the current U.S. leadership and considering the historical odds, I would not want to place a bet that we will beat the 300 democracy life cycle. John

    • John,

      Thanks for your comments. Its been a long time since I read Cicero. I need to revisit. I wonder if when he wrote his thoughtful words did he have some of the same thoughts and concerns we have today. Obviously not enough people paid attention to his wisdom. Do you remember how old Cicero was when he did the bulk of his writing?

      Trying to publish a sequel to my novel in late spring. I’ve decided that fiction gives me the opportunity to weave in philosophy and criticism of the political correct nonsense in a forum that might be read. Now I’m trying to use social networking to spread the word. I’ve a brilliant young women helping me. Self promotion is a high hurdle to get over.

      • John Nugent

        Dear Barry: Hi. This piece was written by Cicero in 55BC. He lived from 106 BC to 43 BC. So he was about fifty when he wrote tthis piece. I think he and Plutarch were two of the best orators and writers through the years. It seems we learn nothing from history.

        You may have had the privledge of being a personal assistant to the last great US president. The country could really use him and his staff now.

        Everyone I have told about “Justice Beyond Law” has loved your book. You have such a great writing style. I look forward to the next novel.

        Best regards, John

  2. Pingback: EIGHT DECADES OF INSIGHTS 29 | Barry Kelly | Facts and Fictions

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