Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief (ahem, that is, bureaucrat). It is not so much the politicians who drive the evolution towards censorship and control by the state. The bureaucrats are the main movers of it. The politicians come and go. Bureaucracies are forever.
Bureaucracies have their own agendas, powerful ones, all-pervasive and intrepid. They are the ones who make the necessary things (and many others besides that) happen. Politicians have some influence. Most of them just come along for the ride. The bureaucrats are far more numerous and have much more power that is always being used. The bureaucracy is the wagon that virtually no politicians can steer, but that they happily use to hitch rides.
It is highly unlikely that any elected politician(s) will ever be powerful enough to tell the wagon of the bureaucracy where to go, in other words, be in control of it and drive it (through taxes, censorship, red tape, whatever you may desire or are bothered by). The driving of the wagon that is the bureaucracy is being done by powerful bureaucrats. That helps to ensure that bureaucracies are forever.
Take just one example, Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise that under his term the trade in pot would be legalized. Of course he felt compelled to say that. It was a calculated move that helped to bring a good number of voters to the polls, voters that otherwise would never have bothered. How could Justin Trudeau resist? It is a dream come true, for any bureaucrat worth his salt, to legalize the lively trade of pot in Canada! Nevertheless, promising that it be done is easy, getting it done is hard work. It is work that bureaucrats are made for.
It takes the creation and re-writing of rules and red tape, one consequence of deciding that what was illegal is now legal. That involves:
- All and every one of the bureaucratic sectors and departments involved in jurisprudence;
- The creation and rewriting of rules for industry and commerce. It must be decided who can do it, who may do it, who must do it, how much of it, how, of what quality, when and where, market studies, audit trails and much more. It must be decided what it will cost (while no bureaucrat can possibly know how much it will cost; don’t think that bureaucrats are all-knowing);
- Making an estimate of how much money it will cost the government to produce pot, control it, administer and control the production and trade, and of how much can be raked off in tax revenues;
- Travelling by the Prime Minister and many bureaucrats (separate trips, conveyances and accommodations, of course, to drum up foreign trade and to make foreign-trade agreements. There are precedents, fortunately, as Canada once before tried to corner the world market on the production and trade in hemp products (sail cloth and ropes made from hemp, whose production the government heavily subsidized, unfortunately in vain, as the advent of steamships grew to be very detrimental to those plans);
- Making more rules for how to collect the taxes. the designing of all the forms, applications, permits and exemptions that will apply, and of course to bring all of that to bear in government budget estimates, do I need to go on?
The legalization of pot, just as the legalization of gambling, tobacco, alcohol or any other vice, is a bureaucrat’s wet dream. That is why the bureaucracy will go along with it and make it go, even if it should break the Country. After all, it is much work and a great boon for employment that presents untold career opportunities for self-respecting bureaucrats. It makes the Canadian bureaucracy a growth industry with plenty of opportunities for growth, a grow-op! Long live the bureaucracy! Bureaucracies are forever.
How do the people manage?
If you wonder where that leaves us, we are the horses that pull the wagon. Between the bureaucrats who tell us where to go, how fast, how long and when, and the politicians who go along for the ride and make us believe that they are our leaders, and that they act in our best interests, we can only hope that we are always told to go into the right direction and that we get fed.
Politicians come and go. If lucky, they will last at least one whole term until the next election comes along. Usually, bureaucrats outlast even the most long-lived politicians. The wagon of the bureaucracy is self-renewing, self-controlling, essentially autonomous (except for the little detail of the tax revenues it consumes to keep the bureaucracy in fine shape). Bureaucracies usually see Politicians as temporary inconveniences, necessary evils, meddlers that must be tolerated, their plans and objectives to be supported if useful for the purposes of the bureaucracy — to be circumvented, opposed and even sabotaged, if seen as being counter-productive to its aims.
The first order of business for a bureaucracy is to create business for itself, business that caters to the self-interests and well-being of the bureaucracy. C. Northcote Parkinson knew a thing or two about bureaucracies. He knew why they grow inexorably. He expressed that in Parkinson’ Law. We owe him eternal gratitude for pointing out that the inevitable cannot be changed, that bureaucracies are forever, that a bureaucracy’s “Work expands so as to fill available time,” and that the unavoidable corollary is that “Expenditure rises to meet income—and tends to surpass it.” That quite nicely demonstrates that there are virtually never any budget surpluses but with virtual certainty always budget overruns. That also never fails to get politicians elected, who – time and again – promise to put an end to what cannot be changed.
Yet, whenever a discussion turns to the consequences of a bureaucracy’s actions and inexorable growth, the thought gets expressed, “How much longer to the next election?” As if that would make a difference! It never did before. After all, the bureaucracy that is the cause of the concern that the hoped-for election is to fix existed since time-immemorial; not because it got elected, but because it never did get elected, it always existed, and it always will. No election will fix that. Bureaucracies are forever and always were.
Do we need to go along with it all? That depends, and we must come to terms with this:
“A government is not the expression of the popular will, but rather the expression of what a nation’s people are willing to endure.”
— Kurt Tucholsky
Many people throughout history tried to fix the problem through revolutions, bloody or administrative, which says nothing about their effectiveness or the extents to which they are harmful or even deadly. Still, the deconstruction of the patriarchy, whenever it was attempted, whether that was through things like the Bolshevik revolution in Russia or revolutions in any other country that were to create Utopia, or on account of the feminist, global re-engineering of civilization, to get rid of the patriarchal family once and for all, had no effect on the existence of the bureaucracies, other than to increase their power. The bureaucracies survived them all, to become the new law and order, with a vengeance, in every single case, unhindered (because all resistance, protection and hope for opposition had been removed), the Parens Patriae (Latin for “parent of the country”; lit., “parent of the fatherland”), with powers over everyone that were and are far in excess of anything the bureaucracies had before all protection against the rising powers of bureaucracies had been removed.
The hallmark of totalitarian regimes always was and always will be that the powers and the excesses of their bureaucracies, on whom they rely for their existence and effectiveness of the oppression for which the are the tool, is far greater, far more terrible than elsewhere or when, where people could or can enjoy life more because freedom still ruled or rules.
Bureaucracies are forever, even though they can become cancers, ranging from being benign to being extremely malignant. Still, whether a bureaucracy contributed much or little to the untimely demise of the society it lived on, a bureaucracy will be the very last thing that perishes after a nation or civilization exhausted itself while trying to support the bureaucracy that it hosted.
Bureaucracies and civilization are inseparable
Through the cycles of empires, from their births, through feudalism, monarchies, democracies, increasing socialism into totalitarianism and dictatorship, even through conquest by outside forces and the ultimate decline back into chaos, the bureaucracy always is, until the last remnant of humanity expires. For all practical intents and purposes, bureaucracies are forever.
The most important career-decision anyone ever made was when he decided whether he would work for the bureaucracy, or the bureaucracy would work him, for – win or lose – just as with medical doctors or lawyers, as long as there is demand for them (remember and never forget: bureaucracies are forever), bureaucrats will always get paid, for as long as there is someone capable of paying the taxes required for that.
Even Hitler knew that, but that is a different story, although it is much the same, as Hitler, too, managed to turn the bureaucracy of his time into something that could no longer be controlled, by removing the controls that had kept the German bureaucracy in check for about 400 years. He had promised aspiring bureaucrats without employment jobs when he would get into power, if only they would work for him and support him in getting there. They did, and he made good on that promise. Hitler was not as sophisticated as he was honest. His lure was law and order, and employment, not the legalization of illegal substances, but you’ve got to admit, he delivered in spades, because he got the help of the whole bureaucracy, all of it, not just a few portions of it required to legalize just one illegal substance.
With the help of a German bureaucracy that grew to cancerous proportions, Hitler managed in an interval of about six years to change Germany’s fortunes from rags to riches. Within about another six years he blew all of it and left Germany in ruins, rubble and ashes, and he could have done neither without the help of a bureaucracy that he had caused to grow to cancerous proportions.
Hitler died by his own hand, at the end of that, but the bureaucracy he used to make that roller coaster ride happen survived, unscathed, uncontrolled, uncontrollable and more of a cancer than ever before, with the bureaucracy now changing its strategy: If Germany and its bureaucracy cannot conquer the world, invite the world (at least the people of the poor third world nations) to come and conquer Germany. That is no skin off the back of the German bureaucrats. Their bureaucracy will still be around, and its bureaucrats will still get paid. The bureaucracy does not care who the taxpayers are that feed it, as long as they consume goods and services, and as long as they pay taxes.
Justin Trudeau’s Dad knew how well total control works in that respect, because, as he once remarked to his dear friend, Fidel Castro, that it would be much easier to accomplish reforms in Canada, if only he could do them the way Fidel Castro did them in Cuba.