Bureaucracy, Tyranny, and Violence

The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.

Hannah Arendt

If you’ve ever been to the Department of Motor Vehicles, you know just how beaten down you feel by the time you leave–often several hours after you arrived. Everyone has learned a long time ago that there is no point in arguing with anyone at the DMV, because complaining or arguing will affect nothing, and may in fact just slow things down for you. No matter, what, whoever you’re talking to is not in charge and they cannot help you. Everyone is simply following the rules and nobody is responsible for anything. It literally is “rule of the desk.”

There are almost 22 million people employed by federal, state, and local governments. The manufacturing sector employs about half that many people. About a quarter of government employees could be considered bureaucrats. That means that there’s about one government bureaucrat for every two factory workers. With about 160 million people employed in the U.S., that’s about 1 bureaucrat for every 25 non-government worker.

But those are just government bureaucrats. Businesses also have bureaucrats (as anyone who has tried to get anything done by calling a problem in to a company knows). And since education isn’t considered “government” employment, though public education is in fact government education, none of the education bureaucrats are counted. If the ratio of bureaucrats in education and the private sector is even half that of government, we’re talking about something like 13 million bureaucrats in those two sectors. Altogether, that’s almost 20 million bureaucrats in the U.S.

The point is, there are a whole lot of people out there whose primary jobs are to prevent much from getting done, because that’s what protect their jobs. Their job is designed to frustrate anyone who comes their way.

What happens when so many people are actively working to frustrate the rest of the population?  Why is anyone surprised that people are acting on that frustration?

We are living in a tyranny. A tyranny of no one. As the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath learned, there’s simply nobody to shoot. And if there’s nobody to shoot, anybody will do.

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