The Bubba Coup, Explained

By Rick Boettger

The City Commission voted 4-3 to fire the new City Manager in “one of the ugliest . . . raucous public meetings” the very experienced editor Linda Grist Cunningham has ever seen, what she first called the “Bubba Uprising” until it succeeded as a “Coup.” Mandy Miles and Tim O’Hara also reported the facts, so now I’ll come in and do the ‘splaining.

Our Bubba government was simply exercising the same power held by the FBI, Senate, and any School District. All are what are called “neoinstitutions,” (neo for short) which I learned about in my PhD program in Organizational Behavior at Berkeley. For a change, I’m writing today from a position I am actually qualified professionally to profess.

In brief, W. Richard Scott taught us that large organizations naturally evolve from institutions that actually serve their voters or clients into a “neo” version which exists mainly to serve themselves. That is, they have a founding reason for being, such as the FBI’s protecting the USA from domestic enemies. But they steadily favor those who serve the bureaucracy more than those who actually protect the citizens. You get promoted for helping the neo itself, not the neo’s ostensible clients or taxpayers.

The goal of the leadership becomes getting more and more money for less and less work, while immunizing themselves from any accountability for, in the case of the FBI and CIA, completely blowing 9/11 (no one even got a reprimand). The goal is to maintain what becomes a “rational myth” that they are actually doing what they are supposed to be doing, while hiring more and more people to do less and less of the actual mission.

In a realized neoinstitution, it keeps getting greater funding, more employees, and nobody gets criticized much less fired. This describes basically all government agencies and most older large business organizations. Once realized, they fear any changes—they’ve got a sweet thing going, no boat-rockers, please.

Guys like Al Childress who come in from the outside and threaten to change the organization get treated like an invading virus. The FBI brought in a hot-shot young change agent, a woman who had already reformed some private businesses. She quit after a year because she was ignored by the old guard and couldn’t change a thing. I don’t know the details of what Al actually did, but it’s all variations of the same story. The old guard is asked to do more work, or is evaluated in some way they can’t control, or lose some perk they’re used to. It can even be changes that are for their good, but they don’t trust them.

It sounds a bit scandalous, but it all so common we’re used to it. The neo’s have to do just enough real work to maintain their rational myth, and that’s usually enough to supply our needs. And it gives relatively cushy jobs to more and more people, a good thing as AI takes over all the real work. I nominate the U.N. as the all-time champ. People get classy jobs, big bucks, Diplomatic Plates, and mainly attend lavish dinners in beautiful locations while never accomplishing anything. Without even a hint of reform.

Props to Wes Hunter for poking the bear.

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