Tyler Cowen addresses the useful and timely question, “what are some examples of successful government bureaucracies?”:
Wars aside, here is a short and very incomplete list: the NIH, the Manhattan Project, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Fairfax County, the World Trade Organization, the urban planners of postwar Germany, some of the Victorian public works and public health commissions, most of what goes on in Singapore, anywhere that J.S. Bach worked.
The European Union has been very good for eastern Europe. I’ll leave aside the health care issue because we’ve debated that plenty already. The real question is what all these examples have in common.
I would add–as one commenter did–the Tennessee Valley Authority. For commonality, I would throw out that most of these (if not all) have some sort of urgency about their objectives. That point’s debatable, but what isn’t all that debatable is that bureaucracies without urgency and big missions tend to be cumbersome.