THE PRESERVATION OF THE BUREAUCRACY
By JACOB G. HORNBERGER
Two hundred years ago, our American ancestors instituted the
most unusual political system in history. The Constitution
called into existence a government whose powers, for the first
time ever, were extremely limited. Thus, unlike other people
throughout history, Americans lived without such things as
income taxation, welfare, licensure, immigration control,
business regulation, drug laws, conscription, and passports.
Generally, and with exceptions (slavery and tariffs being the
most notable), laws were limited to protecting people from the
violence and fraud of others.
What caused these Americans to institute this strange and
novel way of life? The answer lies in the way our American
ancestors perceived the relationship between the individual in
society and his government.
Americans of that time believed that the preservation of the
individual--and the freedom to live his life and dispose of
his wealth as he chose--was the highest political end. Thus,
for them, government's sole purpose was to assist in the
achievement of this end. Government officials were viewed as
servants, and only as servants, to ensure the preservation of
the individual, the freedom to live his life, and the
disposition of his wealth, as he saw fit.
Although Americans of today operate under the delusion that
they subscribe to the same value structure as their ancestors,
the uncomfortable reality is that they have instead rejected
and abandoned it. Although they will rarely admit it to
themselves or others, Americans today honestly believe that
the supreme end in American society is not the preservation of
the individual and his freedom to choose, but rather the
preservation of the political bureaucracy and its unlimited
power to control the lives and wealth of the citizenry.
How do the politicians and bureaucrats, in turn, perceive the
citizenry? Paying lip service to their role as "public
servants," especially at election time, public officials, in
reality, scoff at any such notion. In their eyes, the citizens
are means, not ends, who exist solely to ensure the
preservation of the bureaucracy.
This philosophical perspective--that the citizen is merely a
"cog in the wheel" which can, and will, be sacrificed for the
greater good of the bureaucracy--holds true, of course, with
the civil bureaucracy. Usually under the guise of fighting
some domestic "war," or attacking some "crisis"--poverty,
drugs, illiteracy, racism, or whatever--the civil bureaucracy
exercises ever increasing control over the lives and wealth of
But the same holds true with the military bureaucracy. No
matter what the conditions are in the world--even if peace
were to break out everywhere--even if democracies were
suddenly found in every nation on earth--even if American
politicians and bureaucrats appointed every ruler in the
world--in the mind of the military bureaucrat, crises and wars
will always be a "potential threat" to "national security."
And so the military bureaucracy also wields ever increasing
control over the lives and wealth of the citizenry.
All money which government has, of course, comes from the
citizenry through the coercive process of taxation.
Government officials understand that, in this sense, they are
parasitic--that is, that they survive and flourish through the
earnings that are sucked out of the pockets of the citizens.
They comprehend, for example, that if the citizenry suddenly
decided to stop paying taxes, the bureaucracy's lifeline
would, at the same time, dry up.
The bureaucracy recognizes that, since it is a parasite, it
must perform a masterful balancing act. On the one hand, it
must ensure that the citizenry continue paying taxes at such a
level that the bureaucracy is preserved, and hopefully
expanded. But it must also ensure that the level of
confiscation and plunder never gets so high that the worst
fear of the bureaucracy--a tax revolt among the citizenry--
Now, the intriguing question is: if the American people
decided that their ancestors were right, and that 20th-century
Americans are wrong--that is, that the preservation of the
individual and his freedom to choose, should, in fact, be the
end, and the government simply the means to ensure that end--
would the politicians and bureaucrats comply with the decision
of the citizenry?
The answer is in doubt. Why? Because those in the bureaucracy
honestly believe that they, not the citizenry, are "the
country"; that is, they actually think that the nation, and
the well-being of the nation, depend on their preservation.
The dismantling of the bureaucracy, in their minds, would mean
the destruction of the country. Therefore, it is entirely
possible that, in the midst of what the politicians and
bureaucrats would consider a "national crisis," they would
refuse to comply with a mandate of the citizenry to dismantle
the bureaucracy and end the taxation necessary for its
One of these days, the American people will discover, much to
their surprise and dismay, that which the Soviet citizens are
discovering: that the bureaucracy will always tolerate the
citizens' "freedom of speech" to complain about bureaucratic
abuses and inefficiencies; but as soon as the bureaucracy is
threatened by the citizenry with extinction, it will fight
them "tooth and nail" for its "right" to be preserved.
Complaints about governmental inefficiencies and corruption
have become a well-recognized and accepted part of American
life: "We must get rid of waste in government programs"; "We
must get 'better people' into public office." So, attempting
to "correct the system" by gaining political power over their
fellow citizens, Americans expend much time, money, and effort
to get themselves, or their friends, elected or appointed to
public office. And the results? Even when victorious, they
learn that things only get worse: expanded control, greater
plunder, increased waste, and more corruption--only this time
by them and their friends, rather than by others.
Americans must finally come to the painful realization that
their ancestors were philosophically correct: that the taking
of money from one person, through the political process, in
order to give it to another person is evil, immoral, and
destructive; and that political interference with how a person
chooses to peacefully live his life, and dispose of his
wealth, is equally evil, immoral, and destructive.
Moreover, Americans must finally conclude, as painful as it
may be, that waste in government programs (actually somebody's
income), no matter how great an effort is expended, is
impossible to eliminate. Evil and immorality, even if
democratically enshrined, cannot be made to work efficiently.
And they must learn that getting "better people" into public
office is not the solution either. One does not change the
nature of a house of prostitution by voting in a new board of
directors. And that is exactly what the American people of
this century have permitted their government to become--a
house of prostitution in which, for example, the principles
receive "campaign contributions" and "speakers' honoraria" for
"services rendered." Of course, some people, and especially
those who were taught civics in their public schools and who
were required to pledge allegiance every day for twelve long
years, will consider this observation to be highly
unpatriotic. But if it be unpatriotic to oppose a house of
prostitution where once stood a great and glorious edifice,
then make the most of it!
No, the answer is not to engage in a futile quest to eliminate
waste in government programs. The solution is to
constitutionally prohibit the programs themselves. No, the
answer is not to get "better people" into public office. The
solution is to constitutionally prohibit public officials,
whoever they may be, from plundering the citizenry and doling
out money to others. No, the answer is not to reign in the
bureaucrats. The solution is to dismantle the bureaucracy and
return the bureaucrats, kicking and screaming, to rewarding
and productive lives as private citizens. No, the answer is
not tax reform. The solution is the repeal of the Sixteenth
In other words, the solution for America, as we enter the
third century of this nation's existence, lies with the
American people's recapturing the principles on which our
nation was founded and limiting the power of government even
more severely than our ancestors did. Not only would this
restore our political system to a sound moral foundation and
our society to one based on volunteerism rather than coercion,
it would also unleash an economic prosperity unparalleled in
But the heart of the solution is to make the individual in
society once again sovereign over the state. Until the
American people make the preservation of the individual, as
well as his liberty and property, the highest political end,
they will continue living their lives in subserviency to what
has been the highest political end in the 20th century: the
preservation of the bureaucracy . . . and the discord, misery,
impoverishment, and destruction which it has brought in its
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of
Freedom Foundation, P.O. Box 9752, Denver, CO 80209.
From the February 1991 issue of FREEDOM DAILY,
Copyright (c) 1991, The Future of Freedom Foundation,
PO Box 9752, Denver, Colorado 80209, 303-777-3588.
Permission granted to reprint; please give appropriate credit
and send one copy of reprinted material to the Foundation.