Charles Dickens Takes on Incompetent Bureaucracy: Welcome to the Circumlocution Office

For many years, I rarely read much about politics and government  that really captured the craziness, the reversals, the betrayals, the hypocrisies, and the double-dealing of that loony world.

Then, in 1991 , I saw Tony Kushner’s Angels  in America. Of course,  the primary topic was HIV/AIDS,  but that issue was so skillfully embedded in the politics of 1980s America that I left the theatre stunned at how perfectly the play “got” the workings of  power and influence. At one point Roy Cohn – played that night by the magnificent Ron Liebman — delivers a brilliant and cynical monologue about who matters and who doesn’t at the highest levels of political combat.

I wanted to share another  take on government in fiction that I find comparably compelling and gut-splittingly hilarious.  Check out Chapter 10 from the Charles Dickens novel Little Dorrit. Dickens delivers an angry and biting satire on the incompetence of government called “Containing the whole Science of Government.” He does this through the creation of a fictional government entity called the Circumlocution Office.

Too true And too funny.

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