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Government Business

The figure below is a UML (Unified Modeling Language) class diagram that models a fictional government contracting system. So you don’t know UML? Don’t leave, because UML is easy to understand if one doesn’t over-specify in an attempt to show the world how “smart” he/she is.

The diagram shows the players (“classes” in UML lingo) in the game and some of the relationships (“associations” in UML lingo) between them. The diagram can be understood as follows:

The taxpayer funds congress, which funds groups of government bureaucrats, who hire a contractor to develop and deliver a product to be used by government workers to do their job of serving the public. Money, which everyone worships of course, ties all these main power players together. The contractor develops a product, which is then (delivered to the government and is) used by the government workers. All is well and the world becomes a better place. Whoopeee!


Yawn, meh. Boring and uninteresting, no? But wait, there’s more. Some hidden relationships between the “classes” in the system are not displayed by this proper and politically correct diagram. The diagram below shows just one of these hidden relationships – mistrust – between everyone 🙂 . How did this mistrust emerge and infiltrate the system? From the players getting burned in the past, that’s how. Especially the ultimate source of all money in the system – the taxpayer.


The last figure in this post shows the dynamic behaviors exhibited by each of the active players in this goverment business dance.  In the UML, the middle compartment in a “class” (which is nothing more than a type of object – a classification) is intended to hold the attributes that characterize the class. I purposefully left them out because they’re not important to the message I’m trying to communicate.


I’ll leave it to your imagination to create specific scenarios of system operation (called “use cases” in the UML).  Scenarios are specific subsets of behaviors that are sequentially strung together in time (scenarios can be modeled with UML “sequence diagrams”). At the end of a given scenario execution, the system has achieved a specific goal, like “make everyone in the system miserable”, or “damage the environment”, or “reward those who deserve it the least and punish those who are innocent of wrongdoing”.

Are there any significant players missing in this system? Are there any relationships missing? Are there any behaviors missing? Got a different model of how this government system works or how it should work? Remember this:

The purpose of a system is what it does, not what its advocates say it does.

Thanks for listening!

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