In a human body the part that is used the most is the part that develops. So too in a government. When a government relies on the military or the secret police, then those bodies will eventually become the government. But our governments are not all that dependent on the military. They don’t rule through troops in the streets, but through bureaucrats in government offices.
Most people don’t do things because they are forced to at the point of a gun, but because they have learned to follow regulations and to accept those regulations as second nature. Military planners may run through scenarios for suppressing a Tea Party uprising, but the people who actually run the country know that all they have to do is issue a bulletin and most people will go along with it.
Our dictatorship doesn’t depend on men with guns, but men with pens and pocket protectors. Men who fill out forms all day and who know where our permanent record is. Our rule is under the empire of data. We are less worried about informers and more worried that a form that we filled out wasn’t done the right way or was lost along the way. The American headquarters of the KGB isn’t in a law enforcement building, it’s in the EPA and the IRS and a thousand other bureaucratic institutions.
This is the kind of tyranny that the left understands and loves. A fully unionized and unarmed network of bureaucrats enforcing a constantly changing clothesline of rules whose full scope no one knows or understands. This is the tyranny of the byzantine, the chain of complexity and the power of baffling the citizen into submission with an incomprehensible system.
The system we live under is exactly the kind that bearded graduates debating dialectical materialism would build. A horrible Kafkaesque monster that few rebel against because few understand it or are capable of calculating the personal risks to them from the actions of the system. It does not require troops, only some police officers, and their task is less that of suppressing dissent and more of managing the disastrous social consequences of the system.
If this system were ever forced to resort to armed force to stay in power, it would have to undergo some fundamental changes. And that isn’t likely to be in the cards. Bureaucracy is a virus, it depends not so much on who is in power, but on being the ones who run things for whoever is in power. Whether Bush or Obama are looking out of the Oval Office, the men and women who interpret their policies in line with the existing agenda are the ones who actually run the country.
The grand show of the American government with its presidents and senators, its elegant domes and assorted rituals, is a facade for the true power of a shadow government of committee meetings and think tanks who shape an agenda and then inject into organizations and associations of government workers who turn it into institutional policy long before the legislatures, governors and presidents have taken a single step.
This is where the true power lies and it is far more pervasive and potent than most people realize. But it is a power that is wholly dependent on our investment in its infrastructure. As long as the majority of the people want the order of working post offices, schools, health care programs, advisories and law enforcement, then the bureaucracy will wield its power until a strong chief executive backed by a united legislature confronts them. And meanwhile what we face are not troops in the streets, but a few million unionized public employees following policy as determined by think tanks, campaigned for by activists and enacted by courts. This is how we are ruled. This is where the danger lies.
If the people running this thing have to call out the military to enforce its latest round of EPA orders, health care mandates and affirmative action orders, then the system will not change that drastically. At least not outwardly. The number of generals running things however will increase and the kinds of people running things now, the smooth Ivy League grads who have never done anything harder than wait tables over summer break in their lives, will find themselves taking orders.