Layers

No matter who you voted for, the government got back in.

I think you need to be from a really old country to fully appreciate this.  Kings come in, kings go out.  Factions are taken out violently, and all their prominent followers killed to the mewling infant.  And yet, year after year, administration after administration, even when you ditch kings and bring in representative government, yes, even then, or even when you bring in socialists, then throw the socialists out, the same bureaucrats, functionaries, clerks get back in.  the same bean counters with the same agenda which amounts to something like “more power for me, my family and allies” and beyond all that, a devotion to the “proper way things are done.”

Trust me on this.  I was born and raised in a really old country.  Same names, generation after generation.  Same devotion to the way things are done.

It probably started way back in the middle ages, when the barbarian kings who had just taken down Rome sat there and scratched their heads (well, most of them HAD lice) and wondered what in heck to do with it all.  And the clerks (a word that comes from cleric) sidled up and said “I know how to read and write, and I can show you the records of the people, and who owns who, and what tribute is owed to you.”  And the king said “Ooooh, someone else can do the boring work for me, and I can strut around with a pretty crown, and fight battles, and do kingly things.  I only wish we had turkeys so I could eat turkey legs in style.  Deer will have to do.”

Then there was the modern state, for which I’ll blame Louis XIV, that right (possibly literally.  Has anyone looked at portraits of Buckingham?) bastard, who — advisedly to an extent– looked at the big noblemen who had plagued his ancestors and decided to make an alliance with the rising bourgeoisie to increase the power of the “modern state” (records and taxation by the numbers please) and reduce the power of the old nobility (mostly the brute force of arms, of if you prefer, quaffing, hunting, warring and wenching.)

In a way it was inevitable, so it’s probably pique on my part to blame it on Louis XIV (a man I detest, having read his biography,) whose descendants eventually got swallowed and spit out by the same bourgeoisie he encouraged, the same clerk-sy.  Whether he would have minded or not, that’s something else.  I think mostly he cared about maintaining his position in a turbulent time.

It was probably inevitable, because population grew, and as population grows, you really can’t have a king who is a glorified family leader, and knows every person in his employ personally, and once beat each of their grandfathers with staves or whatever.  The personal leadership thing can be appalling of course, when the leader is bad, but it’s at least personal.  However, as population/country/army/territory grow, you need bureaucracy to rule it.  You need layers and layers of clerks.

I will at least in the US deny the need for a federal department of education.  State level should be more than enough, and if you as me (yes, I know no one sane would) I’d be fine with city level.  People get together and hire teachers, and keep a close eye on them to.

But even if you go with the enumerated powers of our constitution, providing for the common defense of a very wealthy country which spans continental-wide territories is not same as calling your friends together and giving them some guns.

As much as I approve of the militia involving every able bodied man and woman, because that makes the invasion of the country impossible, and as much as — raised in Europe — I was taught to despise standing armies, the truth is when you’re the envy of the world, you’re going to need a professional army who does nothing else but the common defense.  Si vis Pacem para Bellum and all that.  (Always wanted to have a cat called Para Bellum.  Just like I always wanted to have a dog called Droit du Seigneur.)

And even if that’s the major function of government, you’re going to need a lot of bureaucracy to handle it, let alone needing a lot of bureaucracy to handle foreign relations with pissant countries the size of overextended parking lots, who expect us to speak with one unified voice and not as fifty squabbling states.

Which means bureaucracy and census and IRS (is there a reason we can’t run the government on a giant-sized national lottery?) and the machinery of … clerk-sy.

Which develops its own culture, its own fiefdom and its own idea of “how things are done” TM.

Which makes the Us same as all human societies since… er.

No matter who you vote for, the government gets in.  And that means if you voted for change — real change, not socialist bullshit — it’s going to be resisted every step along the way.  Ironically the socialist bullshit ISN’T resisted, because it’s more power for the bureaucrats.

This is why post-communist Russia has a much stronger flavor of Soviet Russia than Soviet Russia had of tzarist Russia.  Because the inclination of bureaucracy is to accumulate power.  It is a human tendency reinforced by the need for security, the need to keep your children as secure and employed as you are yourself, etc, world without end.

I once, when I was young and stupid, voted for a man who promised to reduce federal employment to 15 people.

It wouldn’t have worked.  It couldn’t have worked.  The machinery calls for cogs, and there’s the way things have always been done.  And if it had succeeded, it would have thrown everything into disarray and probably have made the pissant countries think they could take us.  they might even have been able to.

So, is this the fate of the world?  The mechanics of humanity?  Do people just get choked out by the state, more and more, till all men work for the state, and all their bread comes from it?

Oh, hell no.  I’m not one of those fatalists going on about the boot the and the human face.  No, I’m not.  There is a limit to how much these things can grow before they become a complete mess, so in the end it self-defeats.  (See “The lives of others”) but also, just like the apparatus of the early modern state was enabled by the ability to keep records and all sorts of techniques just coming into being with the industrial state, there are techniques and technology now which enable us to loosely correlate a lot of small groups, to administer a vast territory loosely without descending into chaos.

It might be possible — we’re yet at the dawning of that age — to not have the layers and layers of clerks and bureaucrats and defeat some of that “government” that goes on regardless of leadership.

But it’s not going to be tomorrow.  And it’s not a matter of “voting the right man in”.  There is no such thing as a hero on a white horse who comes in and vanquishes bureaucracy.  Dragons, sure.  Ravening hordes, sure.  But your average bureaucracy takes your white knight sans peur et sans reproche, swallows him whole and spits out the sad, bewildered remains.

No.  The only way we scale back the growth of government is the long march; Irish democracy; and a dose of never say die.  If we apply ourselves to it, our grandkids might see some palpable shrinking in bureaucracy and the way it tries to put out tentacles to every aspect of life.

Keep your powder dry.  Keep your spirits up.  Never give up, never surrender.

The fight might not be to the strong nor the race to the swift (though that’s the way to bet) but the fight against encroachment on individual freedom goes to the patient.

Be patient, be calm, and fight on.

 

 

 

 

 

238 responses to “Layers

  1. And it’s not a matter of “voting the right man in”. There is no such thing as a hero on a white horse who comes in and vanquishes bureaucracy. Dragons, sure. Ravening hordes, sure. But your average bureaucracy takes your white knight sans peur et sans reproche, swallows him whole and spits out the sad, bewildered remains.

    Which is why he needs Samwise.

    A whole LOT of Samwises, actually– it’s not the bureaucracy, make a system, take care of stuff that’s an issue, it’s the lack of love involved.

    And caring is always hard, because it’s dangerous.

  2. I really appreciate your exhortations to patience and resolve in these articles. Helps a lot when most of my social media feeds have been in convulsions of panic for the past three months (especially this morning, given current events).

    • Patience … and persistence. Can’t just sit back and patiently wait for it to get better; gotta be a woodpecker, hammering at it every chance you get.

  3. Turn of the 19th to 20th Centuries, Kipling got into public trouble because he noticed and had the nerve to mention that the Germans were calling all their new weapons the Parabellum – the ’08 pistol we call the Luger, their machine gun, etc.

  4. Two things. The first is the CRA, the Congressional Review Act of 1996. The law empowers Congress to review, by means of an expedited legislative process, new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by passage of a joint resolution, to overrule a regulation. That doesn’t mean that they’ll do so routinely, but the act exists and is getting increased recognition as a tool available to “drain the swamp,” “prune the thicket,” etc.

    The second is the Article V convention movement. The federal government (meaning mostly the administrative state) will never voluntarily reduce it’s power or control to constitutional levels. The only non-violent way to accomplish this is via the Article V method, which is implemented entirely by the states without any input from the federal government. At this time 10 state legislatures have called for such a convention, and the resolution to do so has been submitted to at least 34 more state legislatures. 2/3s of the states (34) must call for the convention to force Congress to convene it.

    So, these are tools available to rein in the feral government. We need to use them wisely and encourage others to lean on their representatives to do so, also.

    • It isn’t much, but it would be remiss of us to ignore the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, notable doubter of the Chevron Doctrine and publicly reluctant of recognizing Administrative Law.

      Three more opponents of the Deep State on the Court and they can play bridge.

    • Dorothy Grant

      On the one hand, I’m heartened that congress is actually using the CRA to repeal regulations. On the other hand, they’re doing a mere handful, one at a time, when we know the last president unleashed a veritable flood of new regulations just before leaving… so it’s bailing out a boat with a teacup. On the gripping hand, it’s more than they’ve done before, and that’s a good precedent to set!

      Also, I’m very, very happy that the “two regulations must be repealed before a new one may be enacted” rule went through. That is a sneaky, subtle, easily overlooked way of eroding the bulwark of regulations. It’s not flashy, great press, or a major change… but it’s like a small stream undercutting a bank. In time, it’ll add up. Even if it’s only 4 years… and if they’re tossing old, outdated regs as useless as the “no horses in bars” or “No spitting on a sidewalk on Sunday” regulations some small towns have? Still a win, because they’re going away.

      • Also, on the regulatory front, new regulations with costs have to be balanced out with the repeal of old regulations so that you get net zero. That’s a good thing, too.

      • Still a win, because doing something regularly sets a habit, an expectation, a change in “the way things are done”.

    • ” The CRA empowers Congress to review, by means of an expedited legislative process, new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by passage of a joint resolution, to overrule a regulation. ”

      You left out the most important feature of the law: once Congress removes a regulation, the bureaucrats are forbidden from writing another one that does the same thing.

      The other thing that’s going to impact Dear Leader in particular is that there’s a 60-day countdown on each regulation for the CRA to be used, but the regulation has to follow certain procedural steps for notification. Apparently 75%+ of ALL the regs issued by the Obama administration failed to follow it, which means there are regs from 2009 that the clock hasn’t started ticking on….

    • We already have the 9th and 10th Amendments. Another Constitutional Amendment isn’t going to do squat. Even if we include the phrase “we really mean it”.
      The simple fact and underlying problem is that very few politicians, bureaucrats, or judges care what the Constitution says. Nor, honestly, do most voters. (Much as I wish it were otherwise.)

      If you’ve got a way to fix that problem without lampposts, I’m all ears.

      • If you’re not willing to at least try the constitutional method expressly put there for this reason, then go ahead and jump straight to the lampposts. But I don’t think you’ll care for the results.

      • I’ve also previously indicated here that there are enough states that are so blue they shift toward ultraviolet that will vote down or poison pill any possible Article V convention that occurs. But then, this is his pet solution.

        • Actually, I’m not sure about that. What he’s looking at is that it would take that many red (Republican controlled) state legislatures to even call for such a convention in the first place, therefore if one is called, the organization will be in place to ratify only the “red” amendments.

  5. It probably started way back in the middle ages, …

    Earlier, if the Biblical record of Egypt is to be accepted. When Joseph was busy buying up everything for the Pharaoh during the great famine there was one group that was exempted. The Priests, who kept records and were functionally the bureaucrats, retained their land because they had a stipend of food from the Pharaoh.

  6. Has there ever been a case where the clerks overthrew the current leader and ruled in their own name?

    • I believe so, Emily. Other than the French revolution, I mean. But confirming it would necessitate much internet searching, and I’m trying to finish a book.

    • Equally as bad, when you have a very strong clerk system, it enables coups d’etat. Glenn Reynolds has a good paper on how the countries that are susceptible to a coup are ones where you could just replace the head, and everything else runs as it did before.

      The United States isn’t so susceptible to this — we have a major bureaucracy, but we also have courts, a Congress, States with governors and congresses of their own, and a heavily armed unorganized militia, among other things, that would strongly resist a coup. Glenn also pointed out potential changes in the United States that might weaken this resistance…

      • Plus, Americans aren’t all that good at being Good Germans. We don’t like to quietly do what we’re told.

    • Could argue I suppose that our own founding fathers, many of whom served in bureaucratic positions under the crown, did exactly that, overthrew good king Georgie. But the heretofore crazy twist they added was to not rule in their own name, but rather to rule subject to the decisions and votes of the citizens. A radical idea that has had despots quaking in their boots ever since.

    • It is called an oligarchy when it happens and yes it has happened a few times in history. Works out no better than any other government.

    • China. Google one of the Eunuchs’ rebellions.

      Probably more, too.

    • Stalin was the “Secretary” of the communist party…

  7. Which makes the Us same as all human societies since… er.

    I believe it is spelled ‘Ur‘.

  8. And we are a pursuit predator species. Our STRENGTH in a fight is ‘walk it to death’. Engage the stubborn and walk the bureaucracy to death.

    • Larry Patterson

      There was a time I seriously considered bring a grenade, puling the pin, and saying “Right, do we resolve this issue today?”
      Hey, everybody gets to be young and stupid, right?

    • To be fair, that’s also the bureaucracy’s primary strength.

    • Actually, a polite attitude, your physical presence at the office, and the words “no problem, I’ll just wait” will help your quest in the Bureaucratic maze.
      A bit of research also helps- who do the drones report to, and what’s their number? Do your friends have friends on the inside?
      My Dad is like Lu Tze at the art of navigating Bureaucracies.

  9. Larry Patterson

    Government is, after all, human. Bureaucrats are a subset (subspecies?) of humanity. So they do their burro-cratices.
    The Constitution was designed to protect people from Government. so, of course, 100 years or so ago the progressives set about dismantling the Constitution. Saying it has emanations and penumbras that end up saying the exact opposite of the text. Yet it is the best humanity has devised.
    So this reminds me of the Psalm, “Put not thy trust in princes . . . ” of either party. The psalmist was saying to trust God. Doesn’t recorded history show how untrustworthy humans are?

  10. ” (Always wanted to have a cat called Para Bellum. Just like I always wanted to have a dog called Droit du Seigneur.)”

    I think you may have those backwards.

  11. The bureaucracy endure is the lesson the Mongols learned in China.

    That was essentially the same as the lesson learned by women in ancient culture: whether married to the man who bought you from your parents or the invader who slew that man and carried you off, life wasn’t much different.

    • This premise (about marriage) is the root of the story I’m currently working on….

      • Nasty, Brutish & Short sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it? Or a description of the type of characters usually played by Danny DeVito.

        When developing your story please do not forget the history of women marrying up, using each husband as a stepping stone to the next. There’s a delightful* portrait of just such a character in CJ Box’s Joe Pickett mysteries.

    • Wouldn’t the man who bought you treat you better than an invader?

      • I don’t know. The man who bought you might be determined to get his money’s worth; the invader might be content to mostly leave you be.

        • I’d think the big advantage to being bought is that the man might want to be on the good side of your family. That may not matter if he doesn’t care — one moral medievals drew from the story of Patient Griselda was that you shouldn’t marry about your station, because it only happened since her husband didn’t have to worry about her family — but it can.

          • “Bought” as in exchange of doweries, he’s likely to care, about the investment at least.

            • Ehem.

              Dowry is the property that the bride brings to the marriage. If the bridegroom has to give something to her family, it’s brideprice. If he has to settle something on her, it’s dower. Or morning gift.

  12. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    On Bureaucrats, Harry Turtledove had a series about a Roman Legion (during Caesar’s Gallic War) that get dropped into an alternate world.

    They have to become mercenaries for an Empire based on our world’s Byzantine Empire.

    Obviously, that Empire has bureaucrats that nobody seems to be able to control.

    Later in the series, the Tribune of that legion is put in “charge” of the bureaucrats (while he isn’t able to completely control it, he has gained some respect from the senior bureaucrats).

    Well soon after that, his Centurion pays a visit to the Tribune to complain about payments to the Legion.

    The Tribune introduces the bureaucrat responsible for those payments to his Centurion.

    After the Centurion gets through “chewing out the bureaucrat” with plenty of other bureaucrats listening, the Tribune informs them that they don’t want to see the Centurion angry. 😈 😈 😈 😈

  13. And it’s not a matter of “voting the right man in”.

    “Some people have a great misconception that the way you change things is to vote the right people in. It’s nice to vote the right people in, but that’s not the way you change things. No, the way you change things is to make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.” Milton Freidmann (A fairly close paraphrase from memory)

    As I have been saying for years, it’s not the political war we need to “win”. It’s the cultural war. We need a populace that actually values liberty, self-reliance and independence. Without that politicians who value those things won’t be elected and if they are, they will be either ineffective or swiftly replaced. Without that, the motivation to shrink the bureaucracy won’t be there.

    The failure go get the sea change at the lowest levels was why the Reagan presidency was soon swallowed up by those that followed, why the “Gingrich Revolution” in 94 quickly faded and it was business as usual. Both got a lot of relatively short term support but in the end it was still the same voters reverting to the same ideas of “goodies that other people pay for” and “there ought to be a law” that had given us the political class we had before and since.

    The change has to come from the bottom up or it won’t “stick” beyond an administration. Stirring people up in a reaction against something specific–the reaction against Carter, or against some of the things like the Brady Bill and the AWB–is relatively easy. Getting that sea change is a whole lot harder, and takes time and a great deal of effort. And entirely too many people are entirely too impatient.

    • This is exactly correct, and something I’ve pointed out (or tried to) to a lot of people over the years. The education system needs a complete overhaul (or people need to stop sending their children to government schools). The ‘bad guys’ figured out almost two hundred years ago that if they could get control of the education of the bulk of the children, they could change our society to meet their ideals and hopefully bring in the utopia they were looking for. They were wrong in what they were trying to achieve, but they were correct in getting control of the education of the children as a means to effect change in a society. How we are going to take it back is the question. It’s true that some children are being homeschooled or educated in conservative private schools, but they are still a very small percentage of all the children in the country, not enough to turn things around. I suspect it will take some kind of major social upheaval, and even then, we may not get the results we are hoping for.

      • “If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.”

        Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

        From Chaos Manor, home of the Iron Rule

      • As the Ivy League people found, there is a force multiplier in networking with like-minded people from an early age, and maintaining those networks as you progress through your careers. Home and private school families should be doing this, to ensure conservative networks replace “liberal” ones in whatever the deep state evolves to.

        • We do. The problem is always entry into those institutions.

          Someone has to get in the deep state, or be in, and get converted, to start getting others in. We’re not yet there with home schoolers, as far as I can tell.

          • And this is where ‘critical mass’ comes in – when there are so many home-schooled that hiring some is simply unavoidable. The tiny crack in the dam. And then… erosion.

            • There was a recent HSLDA email– they mail out “stuff we did” stories– and this girl was declared unable to count or recognize her ABCs; the lawyer for the gov’t that they worked with, who declared it utter nonsense, was… home schooled herself. 😀

              (The lawyer’s statement, as well as the judge’s, were scathing— the girl was reading far above grade level and both pointed out they couldn’t figure out how someone could declare otherwise.)

            • which brings back to patience, and persistence.

      • Nothing so elaborate. Never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence and good intentions. Once upon a time, schools were run by local communities. As such things go, big communities had more resources and offered such niceties as text books* while smaller communities couldn’t. Plus, larger communities could get better deals by buying in bulk. Solution: County/parish run schools. This also allowed buying in bulk, resulting in more resources for students.

        Ah, but if that kind of effort makes for better schools, then certainly a state-run effort would be better, or so the reasoning went. Now we had state school boards. Funny thing, though: If the state gives money, the state calls the shots.

        If state-run efforts are better, why, national efforts must be better still. Or so the reasoning went. And if the federal government gives the money, the federal government calls the tune.

        “Tell them all to take a long walk off a short pier,” says one.
        “But, but, but, if we do, we won’t have the money,” says another, most likely one with a vested interest. Such as a school administrator who just so happens to have a newly redecorated office while the schools go without a new paint job. And if a school loses students, they will lose funding, for federal and state governments allot it based on the number of students. So if an organization has a vested interest in keeping the money coming (cough, unions, cough), they’re going to oppose alternatives to publicly funded schools.

        All for the children, of course. But the funny thing about good intentions is they often lead to a very hot place.

        • So if an organization has a vested interest in keeping the money coming (cough, unions, cough) …

          I understand the need for unions, to protect workers from being exploited by greedy entrepreneurs. Government, of course, stands in the way of those same grasping, rapacious employers in defense of the public interest and the rights of workers.

          As government is so noble and altruistic it seems insulting for there to be public employee unions. Surely workers need not fear oppression by government?

        • Embrace the power of AND. The Gramscian/Marcusian “long march through the institutions”, definitely a conspiracy, took place in parallel with the natural evolution toward a bigger, statist-er beast you describe, enhancing and directing it, encouraging a simultaneous cultural evolution toward letting-the-elites-do-it vs. doing-it-our-way.

    • Eh. Or go back to the crony system. New guy sweeps all the bureaucratic jobs empty and replaces them with his buddies.

      Yes, it will make the Federal government vastly less efficient. Sometimes you just get lucky that way.

    • A fair point with Reagan, but not with Gingrich. The Contract With America was derailed by the Senate, not the bureaucracy.

      To note the obvious for those too young to remember, Republicans were the majority party in the Senate at the time, and the party apparatus lined up behind Bob Dole’s presidential campaign after he refused to even let virtually any bill even come up for a vote.

      • The Contract With America was derailed by the Senate, not the bureaucracy.

        Being derailed by the senate was a lesser issue, by itself it would only have been “Okay, we didn’t get there this time so we’ll try again.” Not keeping the pressure on, presenting a meaningful threat to the senators who derailed it when net they were up for election, and replacing the “new blood” Representatives when they started going “mainstream/RINO” was the big one.

        Pretty much every time we win a battle even a partial victory, people just apparently say “Okay, we’re done” and everything goes back to business as usual as before. Very few seem to show the stamina for the long game.

        • This is why it didn’t do anything really to “reel in” the existing bureaucracy rather than being a case of the bureaucracy scuttling it and, thus, the bureaucracy won that battle without needing to lift a hand itself.

  14. Sometimes, I think the big mistake we made was ending the “spoils system.” In the face of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/jerryp/iron.html

    It would seem to me that the only “fix” is a regular clean sweep and replacement from the top down.

    • I could go for a hard-and-fast law that said that every bureaucratic agency will be disbanded after 5 years of existence, no exceptions, and the employees of said agency could not be employed in any government role for five years more.

      • Yes, I think this is a very good idea. We often worry about time limits for Congresscritters, but for better and for worse, they have a limit of sorts: we can vote them out of office, and every so often we actually do.

        But bureaucrats are completely, 100% unaccountable to the People. I don’t mind this for judges — this gives the judicial system a certain stability — but for people who have the power to create *and* enforce law without any accountability to the voters at all, it is very troubling indeed. Requiring them to leave after a time will at least put a wrench in their fiefdom creating and petty tyrannies.

        • Dorothy Grant

          Texas has a review board, where every few years, every single agency must justify its existence. If it does that, then it must justify its headcount, and then its budget. Agencies, committees, and councils have all fallen before the axe. The parks & wildlife department just barely shaved by last time – nothing is sacred.

          On the other hand, the last time the Texas Rangers were up for review, when the judge looked at the Ranger and said, “And why do you think you should continue to exist?” The response was “Because we’re the Texas Rangers!”

          “Fair enough.”

          …I like my adopted home state, and think that we should spread this review board innovation to DC.

          • This sounds like an excellent plan!

          • Not only would it be good for the national level. I think it would be good for all the States to adopt it too.

            Additionally, I would throw out that John Locke wrote an interesting provision in the original Virginia colony Constitution: that every law would expire after 100 years, after which it would have to be renewed by legislative action.

            Now, 100 years might be a bit long, but I think requiring every law to expire after 25 years wouldn’t be a bad idea. Important laws, like laws against murder and robbery, would almost certainly be renewed every 25 years, and any law on the books that isn’t enforced after a few years, and no one is going to even remember, is going to quietly disappear.

            • Some jackass is bound to misapply Chesterton’s Fence argument and we can count on a committee being established to facilitate an efficient review process which would essentially constitute an automatic rollover of all but the most egregiously obsolete laws … with possibly a few new ringers mixed in.

              • For added fun and giggles, make every enaction of new law, regulation, rule, or the like be *hard* and repeal easy. Should it come to pass that certain beloved laws get caught up in committee, and should it come to pass that the public by and large gets on with life untroubled, a wise lawgiver would question whether or not such a law even needs exist at all. And wiser still the citizen who sees the renewed erection of such troubles and impediments that, once free of them, he does not wish to see again (IRS, perhaps?), he makes his case most determinedly to his representative that such should *not* be again… Else that representative not see his cushy job again from the inside.

                • 60% to enact, 40% to repeal, eh? Works for me.

                • Heinlein, in the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, mentioned the possibility of a House of Repeals, and I think Glenn Reynolds has observed that we have a lot of incentive to create laws, but no incentive to remove them. I think having a third House devoted solely to removing laws would be a good idea.

                • Terry Sanders

                  Diane Duane had such a body in her version of the Vulcan government, in one of her Star Trek novels. The results were kind of mixed.

                  The “menace” of the book was, somebody pushed a bill through the “expunging house” to erase the law that ratified Vulcan’s membership in the Federation. The government barely managed to get the railroad job turned into a referendum, and our heroes had to help Sarek et al explain why the Federation was good for Vulcan–to an electorate that wasn’t nearly as Vulcan-like, on the average, as Spock.

                  Interesting take on Vulcan history and psychology. And pointed out that the “make laws hard to make and easy to rescind” thing could be gamed just as well as any other system.

                  • Of course. *grin* Any system can be gamed. But what we have now is rather too many laws, rules, regulations, etc, etc. Much like the repeal two to pass one bit, it is more intended to pare down the mess a bit.

                  • Spock’s World; which was highly entertaining. McCoy brings the house down with a bit of evidence.

                    Interestingly, the vote that they had go through there is a bit similar to one I hear happens here in Australia, a referendum, for things that will affect everyone.

                  • Patrick Chester

                    Pity. All I remember is the part where biting a debate opponent’s leg was allowed under the rules.

          • Would dearly love to see such implemented at a national level.
            As for the Rangers, with an unofficial motto like “one riot one Ranger” it’s hard to question their efficiency is it not?

            • And a part-time national legislature wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. I mean, most of the elected national congresscritters would have to go back to their districts when the legislature wasn’t in session.
              They might actually have to work at something, between sessions, too.

              I am open to discussion about this being doable on a national level. Perhaps it wouldn’t scale up so well. But it does keep the state legislature focused on priorities when they are in session.

              • In an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions, we should also require our congresscritters (particularly the Representatives) to telecommute to their sessions from their districts. In this age of internet networks and encryption, there’s no reason why this can’t be done. This should be hardened against the possibility of EMP (either natural or man-made) so that there would be no excuses we can save the environment even in our direst of situations.

                Of course, this would have two sad side effects. First, we would have 24/7 access to our Representatives, even when they are working on controversial legislation. Oh, the horror!

                Second, if our enemies manage to hit Washington DC with something nuclear, we’ll still be stuck with the Congresscritters we currently have….

                But, hey, we all have to make sacrifices, right?

                • Outside of the top several in the line of succession, who cares if a legislator is cut off by an attack?

                  Almost nothing they do is time sensitive at that level.

                  • Except for the thole declaration of war thing…

                    • POTUS has the authority to respond to initial attacks without Congress’ permission. It comes under repelling invasion. Hell, there’s an argument that any military officer, if cut off from higher, can exercise his own judgement in such matters.

                • One addition. They’re forbidden by law from setting foot inside the Washington D.C. beltway during their terms of office (perhaps except for purely ceremonial purposes like the State of the Union address or a presidential inauguration).

                • Terry Sanders

                  I’ve played with the notion.

                  For the lower-tech, maybe make Congress like the Super Bowl. Held in a different stadium every year. With a hard time limit.

                  Yes, “stadium.” As with the telecommute option, I add a return to the original definition of a Representative. One Representative for each thirty thousand voters is a fair number of seats.

                  And, of course, each of those Representatives must live in his district. His neighbors will know where he lives…

              • We’ve reached the point with technology that most of the business of the legislature could be carried out from home. Start with the House.

                Each legislator must work from an office in his district. The House only physically meets for ceremonial purposes like convening, State of the Union, special addresses to a joint session of congress by the president or invited world leaders. The total number of days the House can be gathered in DC in any given year is restricted to 21 days, including weekends. They can only have one staffer in DC to do things like forwarding any snail mail and making sure that things are ready for the days the congressman comes to DC. With a modern VOIP switch, they can do ordinary staff work like answering the phones, being the staff point person on a particular issue, and so on.

                The members of the House would be accountable ALL of the time, and lobbyists would have to either travel or say things over the phone which the congressman might record.

              • Outlaw professional politicians.

                Outlaw professional bureaucrats.

                Make government service something everyone does during their lifetime, but which nobody makes a career of–And, for those jobs that do need continuity, make those positions tantamount to monasticism, without the right to vote or participate in making any laws or regulations that affect the public.

                Government should not be modeled on the “master and servant” paradigm; it ought to modeled on the concept of shared responsibility and service to others. Most of our problems come in because the people running things in the government have taken up the ideology that they are somehow “better” than the public they serve, which is a path to horrors down the line.

                To tell the truth, I think that even things like law enforcement ought to be on a mandatory short-term service model; you’re going to learn a lot of respect and understanding for what cops do, once you’re behind that damn shield and dealing with the ugliness. Things like investigation and so forth would probably have to be retained as professional-level full time slots, but I don’t see a reason why patrolmen shouldn’t be short-term types. Think of it as a social-duty requirement.

          • One riot, one ranger.

        • A.) You already have time limits for congress critters. They are called elections. No need to really change the system, just have to learn how to properly educate the voters (rope, urine, assembly possibly needed but it’s still in place)
          B.) It used to be that every time there was an election all the crony’s of the previous party got turfed from their fiefdoms to be replaced by the new party. That changed and soon you got enlightened self interest voters that tried to keep the party in power that gave them the power.

          • > elections

            That’s where we get to vote between a handful of people nominated by the people we want to vote against?

            The individuals on the ballot hardly matter. Their puppetmasters are the parties, the NGOs that drive the bureaucracy.

          • I’m inclined to agree. I’d like to make it harder for incumbents to stay in office, though, but the problem with doing that is that we have to convince the people creating the law to make the law easier for their opponents (where opponents are defined as “people who aren’t currently in the system”).

            We can put in term limits, but that’s only going to ensure that we’re going to get a rotation of bastards, rather than having bastards spend their entire lives in the system. I’m not entirely going to blame the voters for putting bastards in office, because the system naturally filters out for bastards.

            That, and it’s not uncommon for the bastards to bribe the voting public to vote for them.

            The only thing I can see being good about term limits is that it would destroy the Seniority system in the Senate, which would almost certainly be a good thing. It would prevent Senators from arguing “I know you don’t like me, but if you vote against me, you’ll lose the years of seniority I have, that’s necessary to be on all the nice committees!”

            But then, theoretically at least, seniority can be destroyed by a change in the Senate rules….

            • How about having elected officials receive no remuneration for their service, but be housed, fed, and clothed similarly to military units? And a lifetime prohibition against government employment or lobbying after their service is concluded.

            • One interesting proposal a few years back was to eliminate the cap on the number of seats in the House. Instead of 435 representatives we could revert to the ratio of 1 representative per 400,000 voters, which would put House membership around 825 members.

              This would make each representative more accountable (theoretically) to constituents and would dilute the power and influence of individual representatives.

              It would also massively increase congressional staffs and possibly increase the power of urban areas — NY City, for example, would likely gain about five seats while Montana would gain one. (Fun with stats: that would represent a 25% increase for NYC but a 100% increase for Montana.)

              • While I have a Congressman and Senator in DC supposedly representing my interests, they’re not paid by their constituency or even by the state. They dip their salaries directly out of the Federal pot.

            • “I know you don’t like me, but if you vote against me, you’ll lose the years of seniority I have, that’s necessary to be on all the nice committees!”
              I see that you are familiar with Senator Hatch.

              • Yes, yes I am. I’m still disappointed that he didn’t get primaried last time around…

                And now that I think of it, while the argument does have a certain amount of appeal, there’s a problem: the longer Senator Hatch is in office, the less time a new Senator has to build up seniority. After all, I’m pretty sure Senator Hatch isn’t going to live forever.

            • It would take a Constitutional amendment to enact term limits for Congressmen and Senators. You’d have a hard time getting that ratified.

              The Fed has no right to reject *any* Congressman or Senator, barring incarceration for some Federal crime. If that. They’re the duly appointed representatives of their sovereign states, not Federal employees.

              If you tell my Congressman or Senator he can’t return because you made some regulation against serving too many terms, you’ll wind up facing whatever force the Governor decides to send to see that his state is properly represented as per the Constitution.

              “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first!”

              • Article V convention. Not exactly a Constitutional amendment.

                Comparable level of difficulty.

                Term limits are as easy as voting the rascal out. The fact they don’t get voted out suggests that support for term limits is more voluble than widespread.

      • So we’ll make it so that gov’t employees have to be indebted to private groups, most likely activist ones, which will support them in the time between when they’re allowed to work– and then the newly reformed agencies will be easily taken over by the existing activist groups that have been supporting the prior workers for the last five years.

        Put in a six month lag and you can ensure continuity that’s also under control of those activists groups.

        • It was just off the top of my head; I’m sure it needs tweaking. How about a permanent prohibition on subsequent government employment?

          • I expect the pension costs would become exorbitant.

            I’m not proposing we make civil service employment a capital offense, but lifetime imprisonment can get expensive.

            Maybe we could transport them* to Siberia?

            *Retired civil servants.

          • It’s a skilled job– that makes sure nobody who actually knows what the heck is going on is around…officially. So that assures that you’ll have “adviser groups” doing the actual running, staffed by prior bureaucrats, paid for by activists.

            • You’ve convinced me. Just eliminate the agencies and fire the employees, and don’t reinstitute similar agencies at all.

              • Good luck making people believe they don’t need the agencies.

                How about a more workable plan like moving the stuff down to lower levels with better accountability…. that one you can even sell on better service.

                • Nope, I’m not looking to relocate the agencies, but to eliminate them. And many of them are totally unnecessary, and I doubt you’d get anyone to defend them.

                  • If that is the case, then why haven’t you managed to get rid of them already?

                    If they are totally unnecessary, and nobody disagrees, then why are they not gone?

                    • You really need someone to answer that? Most agencies primary function is to continue their own existence. And I didn’t say nobody disagrees, but that I doubt you’d get anyone to defend them if you decided to eliminate them. There are many agencies that get tacit approval from the administrative state that wouldn’t get public defense if light was shined on them during their deletion.

                    • You really need someone to answer that?

                      Yes, since having to justify a statement will occasionally get someone to consider why they believe it, and recognize internal contradictions.

                      Since that apparently did not work in this case, I’m done.

                    • You’re remarkably antagonistic sometimes, Fox. I try to answer you calmly and you take shots. Why is that?

                    • Because you take a request to justify your assumptions as “taking a shot”– heck, pointing out that you have assumptions as an attack.

                    • There are ways to do that that aren’t so antagonistic, Fox. Try them sometimes.

                    • *coff* Go easy on the irony, there.

                    • Perhaps both of you need to spend a little more mirror time and less time minding the mote in others’ eyes?

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Yep, or just ignore the other person.

                    • I tried to disengage when it became a matter of unsupported belief.

                      That’s what triggered the ‘you’re always so disagreeable’ thing; nevermind that the last dozen or so conversations, which were not about a starting assumption, were perfectly fine, or that here’s been at least as many discussions of strong agreement since the last argument as there has been disagreements in total.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      But why “waste effort” in trying to “convince” the other guy when “you” have reasons to believe that the other guy won’t be convinced.

                      There are people (not you) here and elsewhere that I know “won’t be convinced” by any comment from me.

                      So I attempt to just leave their “idiocy” unanswered.

                    • Sometimes it is best to trust observers don’t need explanations as to who is at fault.

                    • Only works if I’d commented on his manners before he decided to go the “only an idiot would question what I belive” route.

                    • And the fact you will not just walk away without a parting shot has nothing to do with it?

                    • That doesn’t even make sense for the “you’re both guilty” accusation.

                    • Probably because you say things that do not comport with empirical reality. Junior hit the nail on the head downthread:
                      “Perhaps the biggest problem with the government bureaucracy is that everyone agrees that it needs to go… except for these couple of bits over here. And everyone has a different couple of bits. And that means that every department, no matter how seemingly useless and tyrannical, has its defenders. Which means that it’s extremely difficult to get rid of any of the agencies.”

                    • *nod*

                      The fences are there because SOMEONE thought they need to be, and there’s enough glory in removing outdated bits that stuff that really did not have someone that found it useful enough to defend would be gone.

                      Heck, my first duty station was re-establishing a shop that had been removed because not enough folks thought it did enough… they turned out to be wrong. (It cost a lot of money to be wrong.)

    • I’ve thought the same thing. The spoils system had some serious downsides, but the “civil servants” who believe that they should hold their jobs in perpetuity as a God-given right seems worse. I do wonder what things would look like if every Federal employee knew that he was going to be looking for a new job as soon as his guy was out of power. It might be pretty bad, with everyone thinking, “I’d better exploit this while I have the chance,” but I’m not sure it would be worse than the “How dare you fire me just because I’ve done nothing during working hours except watch porn” mentality we have now.

      • Well, we could always introduce slightly less stringent rules for firing to the civil service, and end affirmative action for government hiring. Those two things together would probably deal with most of the problems with the present system.
        A return to the spoils system would be a Very Bad Idea.

        • The thing is, anything less than a periodic, complete, top-to-bottom replacement runs right into the Iron Law. Increasing turnover without it being a complete turnover, in fact accelerates it.

          • Wouldn’t the Iron Law still be active even if you changed the players periodically?

            • The saving word is “eventually”. That’s why you need a complete reset: wipe out the existing bureaucracy. Start with a new one. Then the process toward “eventually” starts over again. If it were otherwise the situation would have reached “steady state” sometime back in ancient Egypt and stayed there ever since.

              • ” If it were otherwise the situation would have reached “steady state” sometime back in ancient Egypt and stayed there ever since.”

                Of course, Mr Kipling would argue that’s exactly what happened…. 😎
                https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/general_summary.html
                “…….
                Ere they hewed the Sphinx’s visage
                Favouritism governed kissage,
                Even as it does in this age.

                Who shall doubt “the secret hid
                Under Cheops’ pyramid”
                Was that the contractor did
                Cheops out of several millions?
                Or that Joseph’s sudden rise
                To Comptroller of Supplies
                Was a fraud of monstrous size
                On King Pharaoh’s swart Civilians?

                Thus, the artless songs I sing
                Do not deal with anything
                New or never said before.
                As it was in the beginning
                Is to-day official sinning,
                And shall be for evermore!”

        • /agree

          Make firing for cause a lot easier and booting the racism things– heck, I’d even be willing to give up the veteran clauses, even though I think it’s a good idea, if it would remove the racism and sexism in hiring.

          • I’m pretty much for eliminating the veteran points, too. Except for DOD contracts, probably eliminating the points for vet businesses, too. Hiring should be on qualifications, period.

            What I’d like to see, though, is a good business tax credit for hiring veterans (or for a veteran-owned business).

            Actually, IMHO – a twenty-year vet should be tax-free after they get out, no matter what he or she does. They’ve PAID more than most in a coin that is worth far more than gold. (Arizona, at least, exempts all military service income from tax – active, reserve, or pension.)

            • The “qualifications” is exactly where there’s an issue– just like in the military, actually. A lot of “qualificaitons” have nothing to do with the job, and in practice select for those who don’t do the job.

              For example, there use to be a pin you could earn by learning about other folks’ jobs and showing it; that became a requirement, and now it selects for those who are good at dumping their job to get ahead. Ditto college classes.

              (Guess who was left picking up the slack….)

      • Comes back to “politics is downstream of culture.” If the culture says “do your duty” and the emphasis is on serving your fellow man, not servicing or being serviced by him, should the culture expect better of those it places in positions of power, and should it understand the need to take risks and accept consequences, should it eschew excuses and focus on results, should making rules one is not expected to follow be routed and punished whenever found, and should folks begin again to accept the responsibility that comes with freedom…. Well, we still might get b*stards in power and the machinery of the state may well still exist, but the people *in* those positions would find it advantageous to do the right thing once again.

    • Larry Patterson

      So to drain the swamp, start with repealing the law establishing Civil Service.

      • Then you’d simply get contractors, like many states are doing with their penal systems. And some cities have not-police; basically security guards dressed like officers, who handle mostly traffic and parking infractions. And then you had big Federal contractors like IBM, whatever Blackwater calls itself this week, and so forth.

        At least they’re theoretically visible and accountable when they’re government employees. When they’re private, they usually get to pull the curtain closed and squeal about their privacy.

        • Yup, our city sent a not-cop to take the report for the theft of my roomates’ laptop. Not-Officer Observant couldn’t even be bothered to notice the perp had very carefully removed several items from the window he used to climb in and left them in the back yard.

  15. Our current system prevents the firing of bureaucrats every time a new President comes in, on the basis that they are civil servants, and therefore not political….since it’s clear that civil servants *are* political, we should rethink this policy.

    I would take it further: we should pass a law that makes any bureaucrat impeachable by Congress, and in fact make any bureaucrat subject to recall petitions (let’s not require a vote just to remove someone!) where if sufficient validated names are signed on a petition, the particular bureaucrat is removed.

    And above all, no public servant should be permitted to create a union! This is one of the rare issues that FDR actually had correct.

    • So obvious even FDR recognized it!
      And then… oog.

    • Presidential appointees come and go, but a civil service bureaucrat is forever.

    • I would take it further: we should pass a law that makes any bureaucrat impeachable by Congress, and in fact make any bureaucrat subject to recall petitions (let’s not require a vote just to remove someone!) where if sufficient validated names are signed on a petition, the particular bureaucrat is removed.

      You just made it so that any conservative will be fired if it’s discovered they’re conservative.

      Seriously, who’s good at lynch mobs in our political system?

      Even if that were not so– “that person made people angry, he should be fired” is a terrible idea. “That person did something against the rules, OTOH, cool.

      Why not steal the system that’s in place for Chief Petty Officers in the Navy? I don’t remember it exactly, but Congress is involved in booting any ofthem out.

      • In general, I would have no problem with keeping bureaucrats unaccountable to the people, but while bureaucrats have the power to create regulations and prosecute people for breaking those regulations, then the people ought to have a direct say in whether or not the bureaucrats can keep their jobs. They should not be *just* held accountable for keeping rules, because they *make* the rules.

        And while such petitioning will certainly be used against conservatives, it’s not impossible to ues it against liberals, too.

        Congress has the power to make laws, too, and if they make people angry, then the people are free to remove them from office.

        Granted, this would not be as big of a problem if Congress hadn’t delegated their power to create law to the Executive, and if the Supreme Court hadn’t ruled such delegation Constitutional. But so long as bureaucrats have such power, they should be held accountable to the People.

        • They should not be *just* held accountable for keeping rules, because they *make* the rules.

          Strictly speaking, no, they don’t.

          Congress has chosen to delegate their authority– so the rules are made by congress.

          The way to fix this is to come down like a pile of bricks on the CongressCritters who find it handy to let someone else do the stuff they’d get tossed out on an ear for doing.

          The easiest/simplest thing I can think of is some sort of a law where a gov’t rule that has not been specifically passed by Congress can be challenged and sent to congress for ratificaiton.

  16. c4c

  17. You can see the accretion of bureaucracy in comparing the Original Colonies with the Western States (barring California), especially New York and its neighbors. You can see the effects that having up to 200 years more governmental history has had on the bureaucracy. It wasn’t wiped clean simply because the Constitution was put in place.

  18. The period of entrenched bureaucracy may have only a generation before it’s gone. It could be less. The game changer is artificial intelligence. Very simply, what do bureaucrats do that’s productive that a computer cannot do more cheaply and faster?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      But then the problem would be “who can control the AIs?”. 😉

    • I think it was Newt Gingrich who argued that we can have good government bureaucracies now that we have computers. They’ll be able to keep track of so many things much easier!

      The problem with this line of reasoning is that for every bureaucrat who has a computer, there’s dozens of private citizens with their own computers, doing their own things.

      It’s a continuation of the fatal conceit that somehow, under the right conditions, bureaucrats will *finally* have the knowledge and experience necessary to make better decisions than the millions of people living their own lives and knowing the ground conditions that bureaucrats will *never* know, no matter how much computing power they have!

      • Yup. We don’t need to make it easier for them to do their job of controlling us, we need to remove them from control altogether.

      • Supreme power would fall to those charged with protecting Congressional Systems against viruses, wyrms and hacking.

        That does not seem a happy result.

  19. “Economy of Scale or Bureaucratic Entropy?: Implications for Metropolitan Governmental Reorganization”, Hutcheson & Prather
    Urban Affairs Review 15, 164-182 (1979)
    DOI: 10.1177/107808747901500203

  20. One issue I have seen with the silly servants here in Canada (especially Ontario) is that their unions will actively campaign against conservative party’s because they see that their power would possibly be reduced. Doesn’t matter if it’s teachers, police officers, or bureaucrats. They see fellow leftists as enablers of their gravy train. There has to be a way to hobble their influence come election time that doesn’t infringe on their rights. Only options I can think of would be rather harsh and don’t pass many smell tests. :/

    • Here in the United States, two words: Lois Lerner.

      In her careers at the FEC and IRS she has proven she knows where her interests lay.

    • kenashimame

      We see the same thing in the States; all the “Public Service” unions back statist candidates, even if their rank and file do not.

      This applies to policy making as well, Police Unions regularly push for new gun control laws even though rank and file officers are against them.

  21. floridaeditor

    Worse even than malevolent but functional bureaucracy is the current situation: malevolent kleptocracy, disguised as a well meaning bureaucracy.

    I think it’s happened because when a few individuals openly abused the system there were no bad consequences for them. So now it’s okay, and anything goes.

  22. The hens might be the layers, but the bureaucrats harvest the eggs and control the feed.

  23. “People get together and hire teachers, and keep a close eye on them too.”

    I can see heads exploding all over the place at that suggestion.

    “How can you impose a one-size-fits-all uniform credentialed structure on the country if the schools are not all exactly the same? How can you compare a diploma from California to one from Idaho without centralized command and control of the system? Its chaos!!!!” [kapow, head explodes]

    Chaos is how things were done up until fairly recently, and it worked extremely well. The one thing chaos doesn’t have is rank upon rank of middle managers, polishing chairs with their butts at $150k per annum.

  24. Okay, I’ll admit I had to look up Droit du Seigneur, and I must say, as for having a dog that called this….Ewwwww.
    As for bureaucracy, I totally agree, it is too big and unwieldy currently and is in desperate need of being pared down. I would like to suggest mass executions, bring back the good old Sunday afternoon hangings, entertainment for all ages. 😛

  25. The Vicar of Bray – Lyrics

    1. In good King Charles’ golden time, when loyalty no harm meant,
    A zealous high churchman was I, and so I gained preferment.
    To teach my flock, I never missed: Kings are by God appointed
    And damned are those who dare resist or touch the Lord’s annointed.

    (Chorus):

    And this be law, that I’ll maintain until my dying day, sir
    That whatsoever king may reign, Still I’ll be the Vicar of Bray, sir.

    2. When royal James possessed the crown, and popery came in fashion,
    The penal laws I hooted down, and read the Declaration.
    The Church of Rome, I found, did fit full well my constitution
    And I had been a Jesuit, but for the Revolution.

    (Chorus)

    3. When William was our King declared, to ease the nation’s grievance,
    With this new wind about I steered, and swore to him allegiance.
    Old principles I did revoke; Set conscience at a distance,
    Passive obedience was a joke, a jest was non-resistance.

    (Chorus)

    4. When Royal Anne became our queen, the Church of England’s glory,
    Another face of things was seen, and I became a Tory.
    Occasional conformists base; I blamed their moderation;
    And thought the Church in danger was from such prevarication.

    (Chorus)

    5. When George in pudding time came o’er, and moderate men looked big, sir
    My principles I changed once more, and I became a Whig, sir.
    And thus preferment I procured From our new Faith’s Defender,
    And almost every day abjured the Pope and the Pretender.

    (Chorus)

    6. The illustrious house of Hanover and Protestant succession
    To these I do allegiance swear — while they can hold possession.
    For in my faith and loyalty I never more will falter,
    And George my lawful king shall be — until the times do alter.

    (Chorus)

  26. Chris Nelson

    Nature has a way of ending bureaucracies, every eon or so a big chuck of sky drops and a reboot happens. That’s how the birds escape the tyranny of the T.Rex and his unions…

  27. “(Just like I always wanted to have a dog called Droit du Seigneur.)”

    Did you want to announce, every time you took it for a walk, that you were exercising your Droit du Seigneur?

  28. This is something I learned about from Chinese history. The Mongols come in, slaughter huge numbers of people, get rid of the imperial family and all their relatives—and then the mandarins show up and say, “Well, we have a system for collecting taxes to pay tribute, and recording who owes how much, and recruiting people to keep the system running, and it would save you a lot of trouble.” It’s not very different from Kipling’s poem “The Land,” where century after century, shrewd peasants (all named “Hobden”) are there to give advise to the gent who owns a particular field on how to manage it properly. Of course I’d rather not be one of the livestock. . . .

  29. the truth is when you’re the envy of the world, you’re going to need a professional army who does nothing else but the common defense.
    ———————-

    I had a friend in college that I used to debate political points with back in the day. One of two instances in which he acknowledged that I was in the right involved this very point. He was arguing that the militia would be more than enough to stop an outside invasion. But I pointed out that with only a militia-style military, when the rampaging Mexican hordes invaded (note – this wasn’t a comment about illegals) we’d finally stop them in Montana. But with a professional military, we could stop those same rampaging Mexican hordes in Texas.

    After a bit of thought, he agreed that I had a pretty strong argument.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with the government bureaucracy is that everyone agrees that it needs to go… except for these couple of bits over here. And everyone has a different couple of bits. And that means that every department, no matter how seemingly useless and tyrannical, has its defenders. Which means that it’s extremely difficult to get rid of any of the agencies.

    IIRC, even Reagan only managed to kill a grand total of three Federal agencies.

    • Perhaps the better course is consolidation rather than elimination.

      For example, with so much education policy being driven by welfare designation, it simply makes sense to merge the Education and Health & Human Services departments. Folding Labor into that would also make sense, helping the government target unemployment alleviating programs where education and welfare benefits are aimed. Given the importance of international trade, shouldn’t Commerce be merged into State, or perhaps Treasury? In fact, why not combine all three?

      • Nah. Keep Treasury and State separate. Merge Commerce, Transportation, and Energy into one department, and Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development into another, then move Agriculture over to the Interior. Then move DHS and Veterans affairs over to the Defense Department.

        • kenashimame

          Let’s not forget to rename the Department of Defense back to the War Department.

          • Eh. Go with War and Defense.

          • Time was you had War and Navy. Then they got merged.

            Renaming was necessary to prevent rivalry issues.

            • Are you sure that the Army didn’t have to sell the War Department as a term of their divorce from the Air Force?

              • Actually, it was neither. The Army (and Air Force) realized that they couldn’t go back to the Constitutionally mandated idea that money couldn’t be budgeted for more than two years if they were to have either the manpower or weapons development needed to keep an effective military in being after WWII, either for occupation or Cold War, so they finessed it by restructuring rather than a Constitutional Amendment.

                “Since the time of the Constitution, legal developments based on the clause have been legislatively driven, and barely the subject of judicial interpretation. With the establishment of a Department of Defense in 1947, Army appropriations have been subsumed by a single department-wide appropriation that includes the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force (established in 1947), as well as other agencies of the department.”

                http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/52/army-clause

      • Consolidate, but eliminate all redundant positions. And make “cross training” a positive for promotions: learn to do several jobs at your current GS level, get a step if you do several of them (leaving less time for the reported playing games on computer, etc.), with the promise that management steps are more likely for those who have done several jobs at the same time.

    • Terry Sanders

      I once enjoyed watching a True Believer Libertarian try to explain how to run a navy on libertarian principles. All the better because it was his idea (he was playing with story ideas).

      • kenashimame

        Simple, offer letters of marque and reprisal for sale; use the proceeds to build ships to supplement the privateers.

        • … which wouldn’t pay for an aircraft carrier.

          • Someone would buy themselves an aircraft carrier, just because of the Rule of Cool.

            Also with the current DoD procurement system shelved, all warships would be cheaper.

            • not that much cheaper.

            • If it would be that much cheaper, someone would’ve done it by now.

              That’s before the issues with getting the people for it– the Navy sends folks out half-baked, just ask the fleet guys, and it still takes a minimum of a year of training.

              And a lot of people.

        • Also the condition was “run a navy on libertarian principles,” not “run the current US Navy on libertarian principles.”

  30. And in other news, Posner is still a moron. Possibly an imbecile.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/04/07/the-post-constitutional-world-of-judge-richard-posner/
    (I only refrain from calling him an idiot as the old definition was someone so mentally absent that if asked a question, would not respond – thus even replying to “Are you an idiot?” with “Yes!” disqualifies one from being an idiot. It is tempting, however.)

  31. We have a five-way tie. I’m sure we could get it up to seven if we tried:

    https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/153422-what-book-about-interstellar-empires-should-we-read-for-may

  32. Shorter version: People are whiny and lazy and always willing to sell their birthright for a bowl of vegan chili.

  33. Michael Houst

    I kind of like Dr. Pournelle’s proposal, iirc, to get some kind of legislation or amendment in that10% of the entire federal government/regulation/federal register becomes null and void each year unless Congress votes on each part of it to be kept or not. Unfortunately, even if it did happen, the first 10 years would be a bear due to the sheer volume of regulations they’d have to review.

  34. I’m visualizing the movie “Metropolis” while reading your narrative about bureaucracy.