“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
So wrote Thomas Jefferson detailing “the long train of abuses” visited upon the American Colonies by King George III. If there is a finer description of bureaucracy’s deleterious effects on the self-governance of a free people, I have not come across it.
First a little disclaimer so as not to unduly piss off the many competent civil servants and government workers with whom I’ve dealt that do their jobs as well as they can within the confines and limitations of the inefficient environment in which they work. Their numbers are not insignificant, especially at the local level. I always make it a point to encourage and compliment those people when I interact with them in the course of my daily life. To all those raisins stuck in a pile of rabbit turds, I apologize in advance for the following screed. You know who you are.
Source: The Burning Platform
March 30, 2018
Of all the rights not explicitly outlined in our Founding Documents, but which pre-exist any written document seeking to codify the principles of self-governance, the single most important is the right to be left alone. Of course, that is my personal viewpoint, but the case can be made that the entire process of the Founding of this nation was an attempt to codify that most fundamental right. All the checks and balances, the separation of powers, the delineation of rights and responsibilities, etc. were all designed to keep government from doing what it does, which is getting into anybody and everybody’s business.
The expansion of government, no matter the restraints originally placed upon it, is a given in human history. The Founders did, perhaps, a better job than most in their attempts to restrain the bureaucracy that inevitably accompanies the growth of government. Unfortunately, what has always been true will always be true. Given the opportunity and the ability, government bureaucracy will park its fat ass at your dinner table, uninvited, unneeded, and unwanted, and make a complete nuisance of itself. Sadly, as a nation, we have been ringing the dinner bell for about a century now.
Bureaucracies and the type of people they attract are twin daggers aimed at the heart of any form of common sense self-governance. Bureaucrats, at their worst, are the invertebrate spawn of politicians. As such, they are political animals. More specifically, they are vermin and true to their nature, vermin are gonna verminate. If you let them get a foothold in your house, they will overrun the place. Like termites, they will eat away at the supports and beams. Like rats and roaches, they will nibble on the wires, build nests in the walls, hide in every dark nook and cranny, and generally shit all over the place until it becomes unlivable.
Bureaucrats are the eternal guardians of minutiae and the endless purveyors of all that is irritatingly insignificant, blatantly irrelevant, and mind-numbingly boring. They are the occasionally helpful and pleasantly inoffensive agents of government encroachment. From their pores oozes the dusty scent of bankers boxes full of useless paper stacked in labyrinthine government warehouses. From their bowels wafts the odiferous stench of petty rules and intrusive regulation.
On the darker side, more than once in human history, bureaucracy has metastasized from daily irritant to mass murderer. Bureaucracy as the arbiter of life and death is an illustration of what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.” Typically inefficient, bureaucrats have shown themselves to be horrifyingly well ordered and methodical when engaged in the destruction of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Even a superficial perusal of the history of human government should be sufficient to disabuse even the most rabid leftist of the idea that bureaucratic control of some human beings over the mass of their fellows is always a benign proposition. Sadly, that is not the case. There will always be those starry-eyed, fresh-faced Stalinists ready to stand in the gap to replace those dangling from the lampposts where free men occasionally have reason to place them.
Bureaucracy unchecked eventually outpaces the political machinery that spawned it. It takes on a life and power of its own and becomes unaccountable to the people or their elected representatives. I suggest that we are far past this point in our country. Boneheads of our own choosing ostensibly rule us. In reality, we are ruled by bureaucrats, who are just boneheads once removed. Politicians are, in theory, temporary custodians of coercive power. Bureaucrats are the forever people. Once ensconced in their cubicles, they are harder to get rid of than toe fungus, more difficult to discipline than Bill Clinton’s junk, and about as useful as tits on a boar.
There are millions of them in this country, daily sucking the lifeblood of the nation like ticks on a hound. With every nit picked, every jot and tittle quibbled over, and every pedantic pronouncement, gaggles of government sociopaths are “eating out the substance of the people” to an extent undreamed of by Mr. Jefferson.
Self-governance is a hands-on endeavor, not one to be farmed out to faceless, feckless government drones. A healthy self-governing polity absolutely must keep government bureaucracy on an extremely short leash. We, as a people, have failed miserably at disciplining our government. We see all around us what besets a nation when bureaucratic douchebaggery reaches full flower. From the relentless drumbeat of nanny-state stupidity, corroding the self-reliance and common sense of the people, to the crash of bullets into the back of the heads of the un-cooperative, bureaucracy is a continuum that runs the gamut from mildly aggravating to appallingly intrusive to absolutely deadly.
But wait…there is something worse.
Couple the Scylla of bureaucracy with the Charybdis of diversity and you wind up with…oh lets go out on the race/gender realist limb and call it the black and tan ovarian kakistocracy. It is the bane of any productive, heterosexual, white male seeking to navigate the choppy waters of modern day American civic life. Anyone who has dealt with the alphabet agencies of government knows who the enemy is. It is the obese CDC dietitian telling you what to eat, the OSHA drone in sneakers asking you why you’re not wearing steel-toed boots, the IRS auditor who owes back taxes, and the government school gym teacher who weighs a ton but can’t spell it.
The twin devils of bureaucracy and diversity are like tannerite; full of potential mischief when separate, but mix them together, add a little kinetic energy, and somebody might get hurt. What is a worst-case scenario for the society afflicted with such form of government? Well, apparently, you wind up having a pedestrian bridge in Florida collapse on your head.
So, what is to be done? I suggest that we, as a people, badly need to relearn and reapply two basic propositions applicable to self-governance: subsidiarity and distributism. Both these ideas have their roots in the traditions of the Catholic Church and before my atheist friends freak out completely and stop reading, just hear me out.
Subsidiarity is the notion that social problems begin as local problems and should be dealt with at the local level. Simply stated, it is the idea that people should take care of their own and those around them. Those in need should be looked after by those most closely associated with them. This idea militates against the threat of vast welfare bureaucracies that foster dependency and helplessness and, in effect, usurp the charitable and altruistic instincts of people most familiar with the problems of their local community. The same idea, or something similar, could be applied to many other areas of civic life. Subsidiarity, if allowed to flourish, can provide a foundation for common sense social self-governance and local self-reliance, providing at least a chance for social harmony on a larger scale.
Distributism is an idea written about by G.K. Chesterton. It was his response to what he saw as the rise of corporatism and the abuses of the Industrial Revolution. Essentially, it is the economic version of subsidiarity. It is the healthy distribution of economic power: the corner grocery, the local hardware store, the guy who can fix your toaster instead of just tossing it out, the family farmer who supplies the local restaurant, the midwife down the street, and the doctor who makes house calls. Distributism once existed in this country on a fairly large scale, but the concept has been dying a slow death as the era of bigger is better, and cheaper is best has relentlessly advanced. Distributism is the antithesis of the disposable society in which we now live.
Sadly, I fear that neither of these ideas will be (or even can be) widely enough implemented to make a difference given the bureaucratic nightmare in which we find ourselves. We are too far gone on the road to tyranny for that. In the coming world, lovers of freedom will embrace such ideas happily. The unwilling helots dependent on others to survive will have freedom, with all its associated risks, forced upon them whether they like it or not. Collapse and its attendant barbarism will strip away the machinery of bureaucratic subjugation and replace it (at least during the interregnum) with a far less subtle and much more immediate form of terror. As horrible as it will be, it is the national “Schumpeter’s gale” necessary before free men can return to the principles that made them free in the first place. In the meantime, while we await the coming societal denouement, it might help to remember that governments and their bureaucracies, like any evil, wield only the power that we give them.
Self-Governance in an Unreasonable Age – Part I: Emotional Vomitus
Self-Governance in an Unreasonable Age – Part III: The Hubris of the Ignorant
Self-Governance in an Unreasonable Age – Part IV: A Conclave of Reptiles