Archive for September 12th, 2013

I’ve shared some remarkable data showing that bureaucrats get paid more than people in the private sector.

JOLTS dataI’ve also dug into the Department of Labor’s JOLTS data to debunk those who argue bureaucrats aren’t overpaid.

I’ve even showed that they work fewer hours (though that’s probably a good thing since presumably the nation will be in better shape if bureaucrats are out of the office rather than molesting people in the economy’s productive sector).

Well, now we can add something else to the list, though it won’t surprise anybody who has been to the Post Office, DMV, or tried to generate any sort of action from a government agency. It turns out that bureaucrats are lazy. Here are some interesting excerpts from a National Post column from Canada.

Who says civil servants are lazy? Well, they do actually. The study that finds these effects is based on a social survey that asked people to agree or disagree, on a scale of one to seven, with the statement “I see myself as someone who tends to be lazy,” with the endpoint options being “Does not apply to me at all” and “Applies to me perfectly.” …the survey in question was for Germany for the years 2004-5. (The just-published analysis of its results has been done by Robert Dur and Robin Zoutenbier, economists at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.) …if there was a country where you’d think people would be ashamed to admitting to laziness, it’s probably Germany. So if the story holds there, it probably holds everywhere. …What results do the Rotterdam economists get? When they control for other things that are both correlated with self-declarations of…laziness and also differ systematically across sectors, such as age, gender, education, family status and so on, it does turn out that public-sector workers tend to be…more lazy than private-sector workers. A one-unit increase in self-declared laziness on that seven-unit scale increases the likelihood of a person’s being in the public sector by almost one per cent. …Turning the data around, the results suggest that workers who are…lazy have a probability of almost exactly one-third of working in the public sector. By contrast, workers who self-declare as…energetic have only about a one-fifth chance of ending up in the public sector.

Gee, knock me over with a feather. Lazy people are more likely to work for the government. And they even admit it!

However, it seems that there are some causation/correlation issues. It may be that you don’t work for the government because you’re lazy. Instead, working for the government may make you lazy.

When the researchers looked only at younger workers they found that…there was no difference in laziness. Only with people further along in their careers did the correlation between laziness and the public sector show up. Either it takes time for lazy people to find their public sector niche or naturally energetic people get worn down by the bureaucracy. They learn laziness.

As a taxpayer, I confess this causes me some mixed feelings. I’m irked that bureaucrats are getting lavishly compensated at my expense. And I don’t like the idea of them goofing off while playing Solitaire or updating their Facebook pages.

But then I remind myself that this may be the least-destructive way for them to occupy their time. Sure beats them being hard at work coming up with crazy new regulations.

In any event, this chart shows that American taxpayers at least can be thankful we’re not in Denmark.

Or any of the Nordic countries. I don’t know if bureaucrats in those nations are lazy, but they sure are expensive.

And I’m surprised that Japanese bureaucrats are relatively inexpensive, particularly when the nation’s long-run fiscal outlook is so bad.

P.S. Since we’re making fun of bureaucrats, here’s a good jab at the Post Office from Jimmy Kimmel. And to see how government operates, we have the Fable of the Ant. But this Pearls before Swine cartoon strip is my favorite.

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