particularly high esteem, but it is not because no-count people are drawn to these occupations. It
is rather because in the popular mind our courts and bureaucracies appear to possess an
inordinate and expanding amount of power and control over our lives. Yet the modern state is
built in part upon these two institutions and could not exist without them, and for good or ill the
modern state is all we have known for centuries. Life outside it is hard to imagine.
While lawyers are the much deserved butt of jokes, our legal system, though agony for those
caught up in it, does permit us to resolve our conflicts without dueling or galloping across our
adversary’s land with fire and sword. The modern lawyer hardly conjures up an image of the
knight in shining armor, but knight of the modern world he is.
The modern bureaucrat just brings to mind a tick, or to be more generous, let’s just say ten pound
ankle weights. Yet except for these counters and sorters, these unarmed rule enforcement
officers, these hinderers of progress who can only be slain with the dotted i and crossed t,
modern life, with all of its benefits... that we naturally take for granted... would be impossible.
The problem arises when the cost of supporting bureaucracy exceeds its benefits or when the
cost of compliance exceeds the benefits of compliance. These problems can emerge as a
consequence of ideas, technology, or the nature of the bureaucrat himself.
Free spirits are not likely to join the ranks of the pencil pushers, but rather that type that values
order, predictability, and stability. His mentality is one that wants to measure, record, and
regulate. But although they are not the hard chargers among us, they nonetheless are human and
thus subject to vanity and pride and ambition of a sort.
Then there is technology. In centuries past the Hindu-Arabic numeral system, double-entry
bookkeeping, the printing press, and paper were developments that radically expanded what
could be measured and regulated and must have been seen as manna from heaven to the
bureaucrats of those times. And now in our day they have computers! We the People
Then there are the ideas. If our two dominate parties today give the impression of two samurai
fighting with 3/4” PVC pipe it is because they do not disagree on much and do agree on one core
issue- government should be centralized and all powerful... and this means big
bureaucracies. Add to all this an electoral cycle and you create the perfect conditions for the
emergence of barely accountable Godzilleaucracies with power on par with gravity, staffed by
interchangeable career bureaucrats who possess the corporate loyalty of medieval monks.
Those that benefit from this paradigm are happy as army ants. Those that value their
independence are living on an iceberg floating south.
So the other day I get this notice in the mail from the US Census Bureau notifying me that within
the last few weeks they had sent me an American Community Survey questionnaire and that I am equired by law to respond to it. I dont remember seeing it but knowing me I probably threw it
in the trash.
In this notice I am told, “Your response is critically important to your local community and to
I dont know what information I possess that is critical to my country but by golly Uncle Sam will
have it! Although it seems to me that the letter should have come from Homeland Security...you
know...since it's critical.
I then remembered a friend telling me that he had received it as well so I called him up to see
what was in it. I got an earful.
By the Census Bureau’s own estimate it will take 40 minutes to fill out this critical
survey. That’s a lot of critical information. Here is a sampling of some of these critical
Does any member of your household own and use laptops, computers, or hand-held
Do you access the internet with a subscription to a service or without?
Where did you live one year ago?
Do you have trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?
What time do you leave for work?
How many hours do you work?
My friend refused to participate in this “mandatory” survey because in his view the questions go
far beyond what any government should know about him or his family.
But my friend didn’t realize just how critical to Uncle Sam this information is because as a
consequence of his not filling it out he was called on four different occasions by Census Bureau
agents. Each time when he declared why he would not fill out the survey he was spoken to
rudely and subjected to threatening and intimidating language.
But it didn’t end there. He was visited on four different occasions by two different
bureaucrats. One was polite but kept asking him questions even after he refused to answer. He
then found this bureaucrat at the post office asking the postmaster about him. Another time he
found him at his neighbor’s home asking questions about him. He politely told him to either fine
him the threatened $5,000 or to leave him alone. The other man was just rude and
condescending and told his wife that she didn’t care enough about her community to answer a
few simple questions.
My friend refuses to be treated like a dependent or a peasant and I’m going to risk the fine as
In the meantime I'll pray that statesmen will arise who will restore respectability to our federal
bureaucracies by yoking them, and making them the servants of We the People and not our