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Demonic bureaucracy

July 28, 2012

[J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense on Broad View, KBZZ 1270 AM and 96.1 FM in Reno. Listen to Broad View live Saturdays at 2:00 PM Pacific Time.]

Before I was ten years old, I already knew the basic history of China. It goes like this: two thousand five hundred years ago the Chinese were so advanced they made Europe seem primitive, but then the ruler of one of China’s seven kingdoms conquered the other six, united China into one empire, and created a class of bureaucrats to run it.

That was the mistake.

Over the course of the next two thousand years the bureaucracy slowly but surely strangled China to death. The culture was stultified, the imagination of scientists atrophied, and the empire’s technological advantages disappeared. Along came the cocky Europeans with stuff they originally acquired from China – like gunpowder, paper, compasses, and clocks – all of which they had improved while China was stagnating, and they took control of the Far East with barely a whimper from this deteriorated formerly-great empire.

It was bureaucrats who destroyed the Chinese empire just like it’s bureaucrats who are destroying the American empire. We have TSA nincompoops frisking old ladies and squeezing colostomy bags at airports, we have a Census Bureau that spends billions of dollars trying to separate us into the racial categories Martin Luther King was hoping we would ignore, we have the EPA and Department of Interior impeding every attempt to produce energy, and we have the Pentagon buying $600 toilet seats, $400 screwdrivers, and diesel fuel made out of corn that costs $59 a gallon. Every absurdity is justified by a bureaucrat somewhere claiming he’s following the rules... or following orders.

Does that sound familiar? “Following orders” is the excuse made famous during the Nuremberg trials after World War II. During the war, German Nazis rounded up Jews and other unwanted minorities, then shipped them to concentration camps where they starved them, tortured them, and killed them en masse. When the Nazis were on trial, the excuse that they were following orders was found unacceptable by the judges, but that’s the same excuse used millions of times every day around the world.

Last week we saw Joe Paterno’s statue come down at Penn State and the university penalized severely because everybody – everybody – in a position of power for the last fourteen years actively protected the university bureaucracy instead of the young boys who were being raped. Joe Paterno said he reported the rapes to his superiors, they said they reported the rapes to the campus police, everybody followed the rules while Jerry Sandusky kept his office in Penn State’s East Area Locker Building... right across the street from the football team’s offices.

If you’re wondering how Penn State could simply ignore a man like Sandusky in their midst, you need to understand something very important: bureaucracy is demonic, the very best tool the devil has for crushing human achievement and making us miserable. This isn’t new information. Two thousand five hundred years ago when the Chinese were creating one, the truth about the nature of bureaucracy was already ancient. The Bhagavata Purana is a Hindu religious text that says:
“Periodically, over time, government bureaucrats become demonic. These government bureaucrats then turn against the people, and plunder all their accumulated wealth. Being bereft of their life’s reserves, the people lose all enthusiasm. Indeed, it is as though they lose their very life.”
Those words were written five thousand years ago, twice as long ago as China’s first emperor. Think about that. For over five millennia mankind has been making the same mistake. Shouldn’t we have learned the lesson by now?

It’s a doggone shame because we’re fighting an enemy defeatable by the simple expedient of recognizing it and naming it. This never-ending conflict is the real war in this year’s political campaigns – in every political campaign. In the debate between individual liberty and centralized government, the enemy is demonic and the bureaucrats will fight tooth and nail to protect their power.

The best example is the recent Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. The consensus among legal scholars is that this ruling was illogical. Even people who support government health care are dubious. John Roberts had to call the mandate a tax, twisting the words of the legislation into a position unique to him alone, to justify a last-minute switch so he could vote the way he did. People find his reasoning preposterous. It’s only when you realize the enormous victory that government control of health care represents to the bureaucracy that the ruling makes sense.

Shoot, Roberts is a lawyer, right? The devil can recruit lawyers without breaking a sweat – they’re practically allies.

Government isn’t the only place where bureaucracies germinate, but governments have the biggest ones, the most powerful ones, the most dangerous ones, and the most damaging ones. When Thomas Paine called government a necessary "evil," he chose that word specifically.

That's... today’s dose of common sense.

"Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one." – Thomas Paine

"I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern." – C.S. Lewis, preface to The Screwtape Letters, 1959

From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       

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