Posted by Jay Livingston
The Department of Motor Vehicles – the epitome of bureaucracy. I suspect I’m not the only sociology teacher who uses it as an example in the unit on bureaucracy. In an intro text, a picture of an office carries this caption: “Bureaucracies, such as this Department of Motor Vehicles, are organized according to hierarchical and rule-driven forms of social organization.” Hierarchy of authority and universalism, just as Weber says.
A few weeks ago, I found a ticket on my windshield: improper display of registration sticker. The glue holding my sticker to the windshield had proven not up to the task and one side of the sticker had curled away from the windshield.
I didn’t know that the Parking Violations Bureau was so offended by impropriety. Nor did I think that the iron cage of a rule-driven bureaucracy would stretch the rules for me. But I was pissed. So I took some pictures, typed a very brief objection, and checked the box marked “Not Guilty.”
I was pretty sure that their response would be to quote the relevant passage in the law and tell me to pay the $65. Or maybe, just maybe, they’d uphold my plea. I figured that in the rules, these were the only two possibilities – guilty or not guilty.
Instead, the PVB has a deal for me.
I wonder if Weber is turning over in his iron cage. I’m also wondering what happens if I make a counter-proposal. I offer them $20, and we finally settle at $30 or so. Oh, I know what the paragraph below the offer says – take it or risk an all-or-nothing decision. But what the hell – if they’re willing to knock off a third of the price just because I sent in a couple of photos, maybe they’ll come down a little further.