A recent change in regulations governing French copropriété (the legal entity that administers a collective of separately owned properties such as a condominium) means that every copropriété must fill out and submit a complicated and time-consuming form each year. The French Republic has existed for quite a long time and has not seen any need for an annual form to be filled in. But now it says it has a need.

Why should this be so? There has been no significant change in the real-estate world or market to justify the new document. No, this is the work of the bureaucracy, in this case it is the French Civil Service (Fonction Publique Française) — the huge, cumbersome and opaque bureaucracy that carries out the government’s business.

The French annual copropriété form happened because someone in the vast empire of the Civil Service (the word “civil” is used from its origin of relating to ordinary citizens; it should not be mistaken as meaning polite) wanted to expand a little, and make more work, so voila!, tens of thousands of copropriété forms being filled out all over France, and hundreds more civil servants needed to process them.

Bureaucracies love to grow, which they do by creating more (sometimes completely unnecessary) work. For many of the people in a bureaucracy, the ultimate goal of their work is not to get product out the door or provide a service, but to make more work. As the work they know is bureaucracy work, they make more of that.

The same kinds of bureaucracy exist in many private companies, usually larger organizations, and parts of them that have become so far removed from the prime service or product that they have, for all intents and purposes, lost sight of the organization’s reason for existence. For most of the people in it, the bureaucracy is their universe, so understandably they desire to make it larger and more complex. Both result in more bureaucratic or administrative work:

“Let’s start monitoring the percentage of parking spaces being used by the hour.”

In addition to more work, we have the bureaucrat’s favorite extra, benefit, it makes the administration more complicated:

 “We can have everyone eating in the canteen fill in out a food allergy card, add a bar code to that, and if they go near a dish on the buffet that has their allergy, sound an alarm. Of course, the cards will have to be renewed each month.”

Any additional work is good for the bureaucracy.

Bureaucratic overreach reveals an unfortunately prevalent unspoken rule:

Never make anything simple when an unnecessarily complicated alternative can be constructed.

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