An invasion of Red Ants in innumerable millions, would not be half so prejudicial to Great Britain, as its intolerable Red Tape.

Background.

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itemAn invasion of Red Ants in innumerable millions, would not be half so prejudicial to Great Britain, as its intolerable Red Tape.” is a quotation from Red Tape.

item Red Tape was an article, written by Charles Dickens, criticizing bureaucracy. It was first published in Household Words on 15 February, 1851.

 

Context.

The quotation is taken from the following passage of Red Tape:

Your public functionary who delights in Red Tape—the purpose of whose existence is to tie up public questions, great and small, in an abundance of this official article—to make the neatest possible parcels of them, ticket them, and carefully put them away on a top shelf out of human reach—is the peculiar curse and nuisance of England. Iron, steel, adamant, can make no such drag-chain as Red Tape. An invasion of Red Ants in innumerable millions, would not be half so prejudicial to Great Britain, as its intolerable Red Tape.

Criticism of bureaucracy by Charles Dickens in the 1850’s continued after this article, when he coined a government department the ‘Circumlocution Office’ in his novel Little Dorrit, first serialised between 1855 and 1857. In Chapter 10 of the novel, Arthur Clennam visits the Circumlocution Office trying to find out about the case against a man called William Dorrit, who is in prison for debt. He is passed from official to official trying to find a satisfactory answer. At the time, Charles Dickens was angry with the government’s mishandling of the Crimean War (1853 – 1856) and sought to satirize the incompetence of bureaucracy.

 

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