By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
THE BUREAUCRAT IS the greatest ally of the modern dictatorship – the modern “democratic” dictatorship, that is. Supporting the front men of the political business – the politicians and their cohorts – stand the bureaucrats (and their co-conspirators, the lawyers). Behind them stand the police and armed services, of course, but in a democracy where you have the illusion that the people you elect will actually carry out policies for your benefit, then there should be no recourse to old-fashioned violence except when things get really tricky.
The bureaucrat is the perfect servant of the tyrant, ever willing even without official sanction to expand his or her empire and bloat the administration. Every public and semi-public body is now infected with this tyranny, this sickness. Bureaucrats bureaucratise, expanding the number of emails sent, pieces of paper to be signed and circulated, reports to be compiled, boxes to be ticked, targets to be met, courses to be undertaken, files to be written, statistics to be calculated, metrics to be metricated, assessments to be invented, regulations to be dreamt up and instituted without concern for their effect, committees to be created, meetings to be arranged, agendas to be agreed, things to be banned, things to be discouraged, quotas to be filled, things to be renamed, things to be abolished (and then reinstated under a different name a few years later), budgets to be cut or reallocated, standards to be agreed, upgrades to be instituted, credentials to be obtained, licences to be acquired, fashions to be followed, jargon to be espoused, definitions to be redefined, unworkable dead ideas to be resurrected, restrictions to be imposed, and in general every possible obstacle to be placed between the worker and their job, and between the citizen and their ability to live their own life as they see fit.
This natural tendency of bureaucracy to expand is not a secret so it should be the duty of every state to minimise and curtail it wherever possible. Except, of course, it’s a primary arsenal in the weaponry of the state against the populace. It would be hard these days to find many politicians who are not at heart completely sold on the belief in bureaucracy, and bureaucracy is another word for central planning. It would be hard, that is, to find a state in the western world that is not acting against the interest of its own people, because it is only interested in pushing its own grandiose plans.
Toward the end of the Second World War, Hayek pointed out the danger, in The Road to Serfdom, of the allies succumbing to the temptation of central planning exemplified by the states with which they were then at war. The terrible truth is that the temptation was too great, particularly in Britain, which in 1945 elected a radical Labour government that was gung-ho for it. Railways, road haulage, coal, iron, steel, the docks, and telecommunications were all nationalised. The Welfare State and the NHS were created. By the end of the 1940s some 20 percent of the economy was in state hands.
In the decades since then the country has been divesting itself of the ills of such policies, but in 1973 made another catastrophic mistake by joining the Common Market, as the European Union was then known. Anybody who has spent the smallest amount of time finding out about the EU, what it is, where it comes from, how it operates, how much power it has accrued to itself, knows that it is the epitome of the delusion of central planning. The aim is, as we know, to create a single state of Europe with its own administration and legal structure. It’s a centralised plan for a continent.
It is, inevitably, well supplied with bureaucrats and lawyers working away at one directive after another, one set of regulations after another, one set of proposals after another. Railways, bananas, toilets, light bulbs, driving licences, passports, road tolls, boilers, gas and electricity, television scheduling, fish quotas, postal services, immigration, defence, herbal medicines — you name it, there’s hardly a thing untouched by the EU prodnoses. What they haven’t touched yet, they will do eventually. This is totalitarianism by the back door.
Centralised planning requires centralised power, and centralised power means the destruction of democracy and liberty (because they’re obstructions). It may not have been ushered in at the end of a gun, but there may come a time when it is the only way to maintain it. Even then, though, the bureaucrats will be at work, banging away at their keyboards.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.