Committed to committees: How to run government without trying


In hell, they have committees. I’m sure of it. Call me a lone wolf. A solo flyer. A hermit. But please, I beg of you, don’t call me to be on your committee.

Surely there is a reason why “committee” sounds so much like the subject of “one who has been committed.” Yet, inexplicably, society is overrun by them.

Sir Barnett Cocks said “Committee: a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured, and then quietly strangled.”

I’ll confess I do not have a clue who Sir Cocks is, but with that quote alone I am thoroughly convinced that he was an exceedingly brilliant man.

The core problem here is obviously: “People with Ideas.” People with ideas are trouble, pure and simple. Those who have ideas tend to also suffer from having initiative.

A deadly combination in any committee because this initiative/idea combo will lead to discussion. Discussion leads to action and before you know it you have progress.

Something has been accomplished and, like certain species of insect that consume themselves into extinction, the committee will have no reason to live.

Then where would government, er, I mean we, be?

Just say yes. Obviously, this must be avoided at all costs. Thus, we must always have a chair of a committee.

This person’s sole duty is to ensure that meetings proceed in a timely fashion – preferably in about 15 minutes or less.

It doesn’t matter if you are there to negotiate a cure for cancer and bring about simultaneous world peace. You must keep it short because this person wants to move, move, move people!

He suggests you just vote yes without question and get it over with.

This is how insidious ideas like school kids hawking gift wrap, HMOs and the IRS all slipped through the cracks. But – now this is important – you must also leave a little something left over for the next meeting.

This is called “tabling” the issue. A really talented committee could table anything up to and including: “Should we Heimlich Frank? He’s choking!” indefinitely.

Indecisions, indecisions. This is undoubtedly why the government takes forever and two days to accomplish anything.

For example, you might put the statement: “Puppies are cute” before the Senate for a vote.

Rather than immediately conceding that common sense says this is so, and moving on to lowering our taxes or something, they would convene a committee to study the relative cuteness quotient of young canines (CSRCQYC for short).

Then would come a subcommittee on the definition of “cute” and a panel appointed to oversee the diversity issues relating to what is, and is not, considered to a “puppy.”

They would, of course, be heavily lobbied by reps from the kitten contingent. Before you know it an entire branch of government has been created – manned almost entirely by Congressmen trying to get the $17 billion dollar Center for the Study of Canine Cuteness built in their districts.

On any committee there must also be appointed a person (or three) who hasn’t a clue or idea on how to accomplish the goals at hand but who is nonetheless highly critical of how others are doing it.

Rather like how we all enjoy bellyaching about how “they” haven’t managed to cure the common cold, despite the fact that the majority of us couldn’t cure a pimple.

It is a special thrill offered only to those sentenced to do time on a committee, however, to be in close quarters with the “I could do better than you if only I had a clue” types and live to tell the tale.

Each time one of them gets out of a meeting without being stabbed to death by a paper clip is just another irrefutable example of divine intervention.

Indeed, I’m surprised C-SPAN, or your local town council, doesn’t feature more fist fights. Why should hockey brawls be reserved for hockey when many committees so richly deserve them?

Risky business. Yet, despite the obvious risks, nearly every facet of our lives, from local school boards to the federal government, is largely run by committee. For this reason alone we simply cannot allow the removal of God from our government. We need all the help we can get.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt recommends committees be replaced with arm wrestling tournaments. Loser makes budget cuts. She welcomes comments c/o or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.