American Elephants


The Tyranny of Bureaucracy, or Death by a Thousand Threads. by The Elephant's Child

Conservatives praise the free market.  Liberals prefer big government, and many simply do not understand what the fuss is all about.

Alexis de Tocqueville explained it many years ago in his masterpiece Democracy in America. Tocqueville saw the transformation of a free society, not in melodramatic terms like a military coup, but as a slow, creeping death.  The power of the centralized government will gradually expand, meddling in the tiniest corners of our lives.  We will be immobilized, like Gulliver, by innumerable rules and regulations, hundreds of annoying little restrictions that become more and more binding until eventually we are paralyzed.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately.  It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.  Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…

Tocqueville describes the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to watch over us all, and regulate every aspect of our lives.

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

We are to be seduced.  American democracy will end not with bludgeons, but with the emergence of a vast welfare state that manages all the details of our lives and corrupts our character.

The…sole condition required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community is to love equality, or to get men to believe you love it.  Thus the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced, as it were, to a single principle.

I came across a story, of all things, about a maker of bourbon.  A company went “green”, but not as demanded by the EPA.  Not forced by a mass of regulations and mandates devised by environmental  busybodies or by rules passed by Congress “for the children”.  Maker’s Mark was faced with the challenge of how to dispose of the spent grains from the distillery process.  They turned to a firm called Ecovation.  Do read the story of what they did with the thick slop that was once a refuse product.

Innovation?  The government will produce innovation.  They will create an agency, or perhaps a committee or a commission. They will appropriate funds, issue directions, establish rules, add  mandates, a schedule, and a vast chain of command, a hierarchy that must approve each step.  Something may be created, but it won’t be innovative or creative, for the impulse for innovation is stamped out by petty nitpicking, and bureaucracy is the home ground of petty nitpicking.  In a hierarchical organization the next one up on the ladder must approve, so that the one on the next rung will approve.  And so on, and so on.  It is how societies die.

That is what the fuss is all about.




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