Bureaucracy is the Foundation of Tyranny

Bureaucracy is the foundation of tyranny. What made old style Soviet Communism so onerous was having to wait in line for everything. Even worse, once you crushed your way to the front (when I was in Yugoslavia, they really didn’t take turns–they pressed forward and waved their hands until they’re called on)… you weren’t assured “permission” to build, buy, or operate what you waited in line for. The “permission giver” — let’s call him or her the bureaucrat — operated by whim, old-boy networking, mood,  bribery, or lust.

You had no rights, except the right to persuade the bureaucrat to see things your way.

Tyrants do not work in a vacuum. They cannot sit a thousand miles away, issue a decree, and expect serfs in their fiefdom to fall in line. The dictates of tyranny require a vast, unseemly administrative architecture. Enter, the bureaucrat.

Lenin could not have enslaved millions without bureaucrats regulating every facet of Soviet life. Hitler could not have dominated the masses so completely without acquiescent clerks: “Your papers, please.”

The administrative architecture does not see itself as aiding and abetting a Tyrant. The bureaucrat rarely sees him- or herself as a cog in a dictatorial machine. No. “I’m just doing my job — my hands are tied… Permission denied.”

Bureaucrats see themselves as protectors of the public good (God save us from those who would protect us). They are “reasonable people” saddled with Herculean demands from nameless clouds of functionaries above them. Disembodied “aeons” who connect to higher ups who connect to higher ups who connect to higher ups… all they way to the Big Guy, whoever he or she may be.

They administer the beneficence of their protection through regulations so convoluted no two reasonable people could possibly agree on their interpretation.

Ask to see a a superior even once and you’re screwed forever. The scowl on the functionary’s face tells you so. Unelected. Serving for life. Gatekeepers of the blessings of power and permission. You will make this person your friend, or your trash will never be collected again.

Yes, bureaucracy is the foundation of tyranny.

Everyday life devolves from the happy exercise of liberty into the monotonous pursuit of permission. Permission from a person who knew somebody who knew somebody and got a job — the primary skill of which is knowing how to ink a stamp pad — and is thus qualified to have a say in your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

It’s not the Tyrant per se that alienates your inalienable rights. It’s the bureaucrat that won’t let you (or will charge you prohibitive “fees” to): fell a tree, build a deck, pave a driveway, dig a well, light a fireplace, obtain a license, expand a business, add a drive-through, build a warehouse, sing a Christmas carol, or preach the gospel. In vast stretches of modern, so-called civilization you must obtain a “license” to preach Jesus. In China you must obtain a license to conceive a second child.

The Tyrant is so far removed from the scene, we may not notice his or her tyranny. We may deem the Tyrant a Very Nice Person. The Tyrant never stamped “Denied” across our papers. We do not yet feel the need to throw off his or her shackles. It’s that damn clerk down at the permit office that drives us nuts. Remember, Haiti called its dictators “Papa.”

It’s coming.

You will stand in line and you will learn to love it.

Welcome to the New World Order.


16 thoughts on “Bureaucracy is the Foundation of Tyranny

  1. Wow, Pastor Bill! The city/county/state must be closing doors on the building project plans. CA is not the most “church-friendly” state. Prayer and Fasting. Some theologian said that “the Hand of Heaven does not Move lest the Saints do pray.”

    Yes, we are entering an increasingly fascist stage in our national history. Fascism is “government control without government ownership.” Socialist governments own some things (like energy production) and control the rest. Communist govs own it all. We are on our way to 1984. One of our national parks wastelands is awaiting your interment and mine. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! And until then, continue to fight the Good fight as the mighty man of God you are. Press on to attain the crown that will never tarnish. Attack!

    from jiminmontana.wordpress.com

    • Hey Jim… Actually, the local experiences have been excellent; we’ve forged a really good working relationships and have had NO problems whatsoever in our building project. They’ve been great.

      I’m thinking of bigger, broader issues, and their ultimate impact on the spread of the gospel!


      • Of course, you have to say that, to keep the tyrant at bay.

        And, should it be “aeons” or “peons”?

      • Matt, it’s aeons, because that’s what ancient gnostic philosophers called the host of intermediaries between them and god. You talked to your guy who talked to his guy, who talked to his guy… all the way up to the Big Guy. Thanks for asking!

  2. Very interesting post. Here’s my question: As our churches grow (by the grace of God) how do we keep the tyranny of bureaucracy from turning up right there in our midst? “Very Nice” pastors do their best to lead, but somewhere in the midst of the committees and programs and stuff-of-doing-church we so easily lose the life-transforming power of authentic relationships. Any advice?

  3. Love it, John. Yes. Bureaucracy afflicts the church… I’m wondering, however, if the same forces are at play in a COERCIVE system like government (which, in church, would be by definition abusive), as in a VOLUNTEER system like church, where nobody really has the power to deprive/constrict your life. (If they try, they automatically become coercive/abusive.

    If a church person doesn’t like what we’re doing, they take a hike. If your county official doesn’t like your deck, or fines you for something, you’re stuck.

    The way of love is the only advice I can give, especially when that love occurs at a table loaded with Portillo’s beef and Lou Malnati’s pizza.

    Bureaucracy will never substitute for true relational ministry in the church. I think the apostles point the way, when the needs of the widows necessitated the appointment of more leadership, and the creation of structures and policies. Ditto for Jethro/Moses. We always relate as people in the church, regardless of titles or position.

    Blessings on you and your work. Hugs to the fam!!! (Remember Arvey?)

  4. Do we understand freedom as a negative freedom from restrictions on our possible choices or do we understand freedom as the ability to pursue what is properly good for us?

    Can bureaucracy ever take away our Christian freedom? Does the tradition of martyrdom preclude that?

    • I understand freedom in both ways, but in a way that doesn’t advocate anarchy. The US founders I believe would have said the same: freedom involves the pursuit of live, liberty, and happiness, as one sees fit, according to one’s own unfettered volition.

      No one can rob freedom of the heart. Bureaucracy can trample freedoms, including those of religion. I’m not sure how martyrdom would preclude the trampling of freedom… it would be ultimate deprivation of it, I would say.

      Great to hear from you, Jonathan!

      New Year’s Blessings.

      • Is the American conception of Freedom the same as a Christian conception of Freedom? If not, are they compatible?

        Willingness to be martyred (and presumably actually being martyred, though we don’t see much of it these days) is a fundamental exercise of unassailable freedom. If you are willing even to die in order to do what is right, no one can coerce you to stop. Or into doing what is wrong, for that matter.

        After all, the Christian who would wait for a bureaucrat’s permission to live the Christian life is probably not much of a Christian, right?

        (oops, I think I just described myself!)

  5. Hey, Jonathan:

    Love the intensity!

    Maryrdom in America is just a matter of time. No Saint or Jew will be safe anywhere in the last days of this Age. Beheadings galore. As I read it, Scripture indicates that 1:2 Jews will die worldwide when the false-Messiah hits the stage, whereas 1:3 died in the Holocaust thru Europe. Half is what it will take to break thru the hardness of the human hearts so that Messiah is received as King. The “strong delusion” may be that everyone thinks he truly is Jesus: returned. We hear the “Never again!” mantra regarding the Shoah and I just shake my head. Yes, again — huge. The Word cannot fail; Saints will be running for their lives through your neighborhood. Lord, bless the Chosen people and your Church!

    But it is incumbent upon the Saints to work — to make our circle of influence as holy and godward as possible. To not be shouted down. To resist the Evil One as he tightens his grasp on the World-order. The little snake is growing to become the dragon. And we must expand that circle of influence throughout life without the foolish back-and-forth-thing that most of us allow, thanks to our “inner slacker”. (I hate that guy. God, help me kill that guy!)

    It is hard to imagine how anyone could allow their family to suffer death in those last days. But the means of Grace will only come to those who require it when they require it. I do not need to understand HOW to do those feats NOW because it isn’t my time. It’s like trying to read someone else’s mail. The means of Grace will be there then, just as they are here now — and you and I must avail ourselves and employ those Means “while it is day”, preserving “the times” for ourselves and all. The Lord left giants and powerful enemies in Canaan so that the Israelites would HAVE to learn WAR. War is what it has always been – and this is becoming more evident as we near the climax/nadir of this era.

    Some soldiers die. Some soldiers live. Onward Christian soldiers. Attack.


  6. Sorry, fellow-repubs, but let’s not forget which president frequently spoke about the new world order.
    A bureaucracy’s real damage comes when it goes into self-preservation mode (which it is always in). And the bureaucracy doesn’t have to be big. For example, Bears’ management. If Jerry Angelo were honest he would admit “I can’t draft and I can’t hire coaches. I will now fire my staff and then step down from my position.” Don’t think that’s gonna happen. No, instead he does a CYA move that does two things: he hopes it will appease the season ticket holders and; it preserves his job.
    Obviously, a light-hearted example, and a situation we don’t have to invest ourselves in. But enlarge that to a governmental level which we have to support and we see the danger. For example, the Chicago Police Department is considering scrapping their entry exam for potential officers, because some groups can’t pass it. I doubt the test is the problem. It’s probably the politics involved in hiring and the education of those who can’t pass the test. The politics in the process must be removed (I’ll pause while Chicagoans end their laughing fit)…and the education process of Chicago children must be revamped. Again, I don’t think those are gonna happen.

  7. This is all enlightening, but… back to standing in line…

    I don’t think we should cast aspersions on this time-honored tradition. Here are just a few of the benefits of standing in line:

    > great time to meet new friends (whom you can instantly bond with while belly aching about standing in line)

    > people watching (this is called “anthropology” in education circles)

    > practice standing.

    I submit this humble (and slightly cynical) opinion for your consideration.

    Happy New Year, Pastor Bill! Love the blog. Steve

  8. Bureaurcracy is the foundation of tyranny? So tyranny does not exist without it’s foundational anchor then?

    Interesting enough, but I would have to say that I do not agree, at least in what I view as tyranny (opression by another). We see many tyrants in life, most of them not whatsoever connected to any type of bereaucratic organization; starting with maybe parents or family, schoolyard bullies, bosses, co workers…….maybe even church leaders at times. Bureaucracy is a natural conduit for tyranny, sure, but not its foundation. I think that like almost all evil in the world, tyranny is deeply rooted by selfishness, which is propelled by Satan into a world he wants and can never have. More for me, less for you.

    Let’s not forget the many good things that come from bureaucracies as well, like the right to own 6 bibles and not go to work on Sunday.

  9. Actually, bureaucracy was born out of the necessity of managing a modern nation-state while still keeping a rule of law, even if it’s a weak one. Without some sort of professional government administration, it would be impossible to maintain a cohese country any bigger than a medieval European fiefdom, as anything bigger than that without a bureaucracy would need other, worse mechanisms to remain whole such as segregation, castes, constant terror etc. like old empires.

    A bureaucracy is usually an administrative tool. What allowed it to develop into a separate class in Communist countries was a weak rule of law and secretive government. The failure one instance does not discredit the idea of bureaucracy.

    • Luis, good comments; I agree. There must be an administrative architecture in any organization. However, the moment that architecture serves itself more than the people, tyranny begins.

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