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Destructive State Agencies
Martin De Vlieghere

Not only dictatorships but also democracies have appallingly destructive state agencies, that threaten both internal and international peace. Apparently western civilization has not yet developed an adequate understanding of the dangers of state power.

1. War is the continuation of politics with the same means.

The Central Intelligence Agency financed and organized training and arming Al Qaeda in Afganistan during the last stage of the cold war. Today the CIA wants more resources to fight Al Qaeda. The Drug Enforcement Agency wages a bloody ‘war on drugs’ which causes drug trafficking to become monopolized by extremely violent gangsters. The greater the risks of drug trafficking, the greater the spoils for the totally elusive, continuously renewed suicidal cells of Al Qaeda. More resources and more power for the DEA, means more global economic power for the most fanatic terrorists. In the mean time the Pentagon organized an all-out war against a cruel dictator with the direct result that Al Qaeda for the first time gets a foothold in Iraq.

State agencies most of the time are not just inefficient, but outright destructive. The CIA, the DEA and the Pentagon are gigantic state agencies that increasingly goggle up tax payers money, drain high educated professionals from the productive economy, grotesquely counteract each other and in the process fatally undermine both the American and the Iraqi people.

Nothing new under the sun. Most state agencies are like that and were so before. There always were silly wars because of blundering politics reinforcing the inherent destructiveness of departments of ‘national defence’ (read: departments charged with engaging all armed forces before any perceived enemy does) and ministries of ‘foreign affairs’ (read: ministries of imperialism). The contemporary wars ‘on drugs’ and ‘on terrorism’ very much walk the same ‘march of folly’ as did the first world war and the Vietnam war..

The cause is not so much the ruthlessness of state agencies. Indeed Machiavellism in foreign policy would be a relief. The war in Iraq is the opposite of tough Realpolitik. It can only be explained as the result of the feverish activism of state employed ‘experts’ who are under pressure to legitimize their high salaries. Sadam Hoessein was the most dependable objective ally of the west in the region against political Islam and was also an eager supplier of oil. The CIA and the White House had to come up with great literary creativity in order to present him as a plausible threat. Although they ultimately failed, there is no denying the great talent and work-ethics of the professional imposters Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice. Politicians and state officials have more stress at work than competent technicians who solve problems because they have to create problems which otherwise would not exist.Political leaders and government managers invent enemies and are eager to wage war. They prefer big and numerous enemies because that means big government. Unfortunately the bigger the state agency, the larger the number of its victims. Al Gore wants to compete Bush for a place in history as a great destroyer of human lives.

That is why he tries to convince us that state power and repression should be used against carbon-dioxide emissions. Although carbon-dioxide is the most innocent and unharmful gas known to man, Gore already succeeded in creating a broad popular support within the western world for the creation of vast ministries against carbon-dioxide. In a world of scarcity these expensive bureaucracies along with the stupid investments they will promote in the name of the appallingly extreme climatic risk avoidance will probably cause more casualties than the war in Iraq.

Most state agencies hide that they are designed to wage war where there used to be harmony or at least less conflict. People within the western countries still interact respectfully, and harmonious co-operation is still possible. No panic, new legislation can destroy that too. Rather than reschooling themselves toward a productive life, the state officials and the highly educated rich kids designated to become ‘state nobility’ stir up wars they consecutively can ‘manage’ professionally. State agencies already cause wars not only among friendly nations, but also between the sexes; between the elderly who were robbed of their long term funding of their pension and the young tax payers who now have to close the financial gap; between teachers unions and parents who want to educate their children at home; between exploited workers and exploited entrepreneurs. When employers and employees no longer treat each other as equal business partners but as enemy classes; when religions and sexes compete as groups for power and jobs; when civilians can no longer use zoning laws to protect their property, but to pester their neighbors, and when inspectors of the department of education are deployed to kill home schooling, than the elite can rest assured of the continuation of its power.

2. Why it is so difficult to curb the growth of government.

To the untrained eye Belgium looks like a cozy and peaceful country. But this country too is marred by the divide-and-conquer policies of the leading class. Belgium probably has the highest rate per capita of bureaucrats who distrustfully inspect and coercively ‘correct’ people when they go about their business of educating their children, building their homes and factories, trading, planning their pensions and consume. In the lead-up to the last federal elections, the leading newspapers were pretentious enough to evaluate the members of parliament for their past deeds. The evaluation criteria were the number of interpellations and submitted bills. The small number of decent politicians who are willing to work toward a smaller government, are left humiliated and scorned by this kind of gutter journalism. In a country were problem number one is the burden of state intervention, the only criterion for evaluating the quality of political work should be the number of laws and state agencies abolished. The press is supposed to be the fourth power. We should at least be able to expect some support from the press for the lonesome politicians who fight exploitation and elite power.

The fight against surplus-bureaucracy is indeed very lonely. Whenever a politician tries to abolish one small rule or wants to start privatizing a state agency, she stands up against a coalition army of

  1. bureaucrats who fear for their jobs;

  2. other subsidized beneficiaries;

  3. well-paid academics who can maintain themselves as specialists only thanks to the absurd complexities of the kind of law needed to create an interventionist state agency;

  4. and the lawyers who earn a living chasing the ambulances of the victims of the absurd laws.

This army not only is stronger in numbers, but also in expertise. The decent politician is always ‘uniformed’. The special interest group is by its nature ‘specialized’.Most decent politicians give up the unequal battle and settle for laws written by the legal experts of the involved special interest group. Thus it is still possible that the broke Belgian state which cannot even pay out decent pensions, keeps pouring money into the pockets of tropical dictators (‘development aid’), into folkloric forms of transport (‘public transportation’) and into poor housing mismanaged by social workers and political parties (‘social housing’).

In order to book structural budgetary savings a politician not only has to fend off such superior forces, but do so over again for each deregulation anew. Indeed a heroic, if not to say, superhuman effort. Even more so, since a particular success in redressing surplus bureaucracy will not even be picked up by the stupid press. Only politicians who create new laws against bad weather or naughty innovators get good press reports. Belgian law coerces businesses into expensive programs directed against pestering on the work floor, but the Belgian courts have such mounting backlogs in jurisdiction that even basic human rights are no longer protected. New laws protect indigenous frogs and sustain unpopular artists, but the waiting list for professional care for the handicapped was never longer.

Even among those civil servants who genuinely want to be productive, most of them feel they are personally attacked whenever a voice is heard complaining the inefficiency of their department. Constructive debates with civil servants are always difficult. The reflex to defend their own job is next to insurmountable. If everybody clings to its own business (even if there are no paying customers anymore), then any innovation and cost reduction is precluded. In the private, politically unprotected sectors conservative leaders get sacked. In the (semi-) government sectors conservatism prevails and leads to long term immobilism and waste.

Civil servants who are not blind to the inefficiency or sometimes outright destructiveness of the state agencies, often blame the political system, more in particular the overbearing power of the political party organizations. However, ‘particracy’ as opposed to democracy, where the members of parliament represent their party rather than their constituency, has an indispensable function within precisely the kind of state with too many state agencies. In the parliament of the welfare state which moreover also wants to steer economical and cultural developments, daily conflicts arise which cannot possibly be decided by majority vote without iron party discipline. Parliamentary majorities easily and spontaneously crystallize around ethical questions and matters of rules of conduct. But parliamentary majorities are utterly impossible about the height of this or that social benefit or about what environmental technology should get what amount of subsidies, unless the members of parliament loyally follow the party line. First the redistributing and steering state must be drastically redressed before the people can get their representatives in parliament back.

Because superhuman efforts cannot be expected from lonesome politicians, it is the electorate that must make the first move. It must stop asking the state to intervene whenever there is some perceived problem that in theory could be solved when deploying unlimited resources. The people must also stop asking the state to intervene in matters where the state is utterly incompetent. After all, the state is much like a dog with a bad temper. It can be used to fend off burglars, but it cannot be used to promote better schooling or better housing. Let us hope that the so called ‘right turn’ of the Flemish electorate during the last elections indeed is a vote of non confidence in the meddlesome policies of the self-declared ‘progressive’ elite.

Martin De Vlieghere.
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