“This government will operate like an ambush.”
– Patrick Henry, at the Virginia Ratification Debates, 9 June 1788
Once upon a time a man could earn an honest living for himself without being attacked by a bureaucracy. What the hell happened?
If you are not self employed, much of this bureaucracy is hidden from you. For those of us who still want to earn our own way in the world, using our own means, this bureaucracy is absolutely maddening. You see, in the name of protecting the people from themselves, laws have been passed enabling regulations, and the regulatory bureaucrats have written regulations that make sense to themselves and to virtually no one else. These regulatory agencies have hired legions of staff whose jobs seem to be enforcing these regulations with a single-mindedness that defies common sense. The only regulations they care about, and know anything about, are the ones they are charged to enforce. It is not their problem that you, as the self-employed or employer, must also understand and comply with dozens of other regulatory agencies.
Frankly, they couldn’t care less about your situation. Whether or not you are actually able to earn a living within the confines of the greater regulatory state is not their concern. Believe me, of this I am quite certain. Your job, as far as they are concerned, is to justify your existence to them on a routine basis, paying them their tithe (so that they in turn can go home to their families and tell them they are earning an honest living) and filing properly completed forms XYZ, CZQ, OPM, and 8UY, in a timely manner. Or else.
Or else what? Or else you pay a “penalty” for failure to comply. Who determines the penalties? They do. Who determines the schedule for your paperwork filings with them? They do. Who determines when your penalty payment is itself subject to a penalty? They do. And when they send you a penalty notice for failing to justify your existence to them in a timely manner, timeliness being determined by them, who sends the notice? A computer does, that’s who. No signature, no actual human interaction, no brain connected on the other end. Most importantly, no name or face. When you call the bureaucracy to speak to someone, you might as well be talking to “Sandy” at the call center in Bangalore, that is assuming you actually get through to a live human after spending 30 minutes or more on hold, and also assuming that you don’t get cut off or transferred back and forth between departments a few times. When you try to communicate with them in writing, even to the point of sending certified letters, they reply with computer-generated form letters stating you have not responded to their earlier letters. More penalties! Did a computer sign for the certified mail?
Please understand that, being self employed, when I am on the phone waiting, or when I am filling out innumerable forms and filing them with innumerable agencies, or when I am logging on to web sites to file them, or when I am doing any tax- or regulatory-accounting at all, my time is not billable. I am not on anyone’s clock. I waste an absolutely shocking amount of time doing these regulatory compliance-related tasks. And the area is a minefield.
One can never be fully in compliance; that much is a given. The net result: the very bureaucracy that itself thrives on productive economic activity, by taking a share of whatever is produced, is itself the greatest threat to it.
So my proposal is simple: If I, as a self-employed Virginian, am held accountable for understanding and complying with ALL regulations, then the bureaucracy should be, too. I should have a single point of contact within some government agency somewhere to whom I can turn for all of my interactions with the government. All of my government filings should be due on the same day, and if I ever have any questions this contact person is my “go to” person. This person will have an actual name and a face; we will have met. He or she will be responsible in the same manner I am. If it is ever proven that this person does NOT understand every single regulation in existence, then this person shall be subject to “penalty.”
I can serve my clients, or I can serve the bureaucracy. When I serve my clients, they are able to serve their clients, and actual productive economic activity takes place. Wealth is produced, and “a rising tide floats all boats.” The time I spend serving the bureaucracy is NOT spent serving my clients. If I fail to serve my clients fully, I lose their business. If I fail to serve the bureaucracy, I become engaged in a one-sided conversation that is characterized by threats and intimidation, all coming from a nameless and faceless bureaucracy that knows nothing, does nothing besides making life more difficult for the rest of us, and suffers no consequences for it, all while allegedly serving my interests. At one time I would have considered it laughable. Now, I see it as what it is: sinister, evil.
My cup of disgust runneth over.