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A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of bureaucratic incompetence played out in Ireland over the last several days. American country music star Garth Brooks was scheduled to play five concerts in the Croke Park arena, one of the largest venues in the country. In all, 400,000 tickets were sold. That is an astonishing number, considering Ireland’s population is just under 4.6 million. Close to one in ten citizens was planning to attend!
Everything was going ahead smoothly until a few residents in the area around Croke Park filed a complaint with the Dublin City Council citing a rule buried in the statute books that special events could not run more than three concurrent nights. Rather than try to make an exception, the unelected city manager initially stated that two of the nights would have to be cancelled. This decision was obviously unpopular with the more than 100,000 people who were put out by the bureaucratic decision. It was also unpopular with Garth Brooks and his crew.
When confronted with the mandate to truncate his shows, Brooks responded by saying he preferred to do all five or none. This statement threw not only the Dublin city government into turmoil, but the whole national government as well. This may seem like an extreme reaction over a concert, but when bureaucracy scuppers the desires more nearly 10% of your population, you have a reason to get involved!
Even with the leaders of all the major political parties lining up behind an effort to allow the performances to go ahead, the city manager upheld the rule. Garth Brooks has since cancelled all five concerts, as he promised. One hired bureaucrat scuppered the whole show!
The cost of this unmitigated bureaucratic madness is estimated at 50 million euro ($68 million). For a cash-strapped country just coming out of a grueling recession to spit in the face of so much income is just crazy. It seems like a lot of Irish people are also aghast at the ineptitude of the political class to deal with what ought to have been a simple problem to resolve.
The lesson to be learned from the sorry Garth Brooks affair is that allowing any bureaucracy to develop and entrench itself to the point where the elected representatives of the people have no power to challenge its decrees is not only anti-democratic, it is directly harmful to people’s lives. Rules and regulations are like plaque in the body of the economy. Only by cleaning them out can it hope to survive. Hopefully this case will serve as a wake-up call to Ireland and as a cautionary tale for other countries as well.