Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1.: The Philosophy of Bureaucratism - Bureaucracy
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1.: The Philosophy of Bureaucratism - Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy 
Bureaucracy, edited and with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
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The Philosophy of Bureaucratism
The antagonism which the people had to encounter in earlier struggles for freedom was simple and could be understood by everybody. There were on the one side the tyrants and their supporters; there were on the other side the advocates of popular government. The political conflicts were struggles of various groups for supremacy. The question was: Who should rule? We or they? The few or the many? The despot or the aristocracy or the people?
Today the fashionable philosophy of Statolatry has obfuscated the issue. The political conflicts are no longer seen as struggles between groups of men. They are considered a war between two principles, the good and the bad. The good is embodied in the great god State, the materialization of the eternal idea of morality, and the bad in the “rugged individualism” of selfish men.1 In this antagonism the State is always right and the individual always wrong. The State is the representative of the commonweal, of justice, civilization, and superior wisdom. The individual is a poor wretch, a vicious fool.
When a German says “der Staat” or when a Marxian says “society,” they are overwhelmed by reverential awe. How can a man be so entirely corrupt as to rise in rebellion against this Supreme Being?
Louis XIV was very frank and sincere when he said: I am the State. The modern etatist is modest. He says: I am the servant of the State; but, he implies, the State is God. You could revolt against a Bourbon king, and the French did it. This was, of course, a struggle of man against man. But you cannot revolt against the god State and against his humble handyman, the bureaucrat.
Let us not question the sincerity of the well-intentioned officeholder. He is fully imbued with the idea that it is his sacred duty to fight for his idol against the selfishness of the populace. He is, in his opinion, the champion of the eternal divine law. He does not feel himself morally bound by the human laws which the defenders of individualism have written into the statutes. Men cannot alter the genuine laws of god, the State. The individual citizen, in violating one of the laws of his country, is a criminal deserving punishment. He has acted for his own selfish advantage. But it is quite a different thing if an officeholder evades the duly promulgated laws of the nation for the benefit of the “State.” In the opinion of “reactionary” courts he may be technically guilty of a contravention. But in a higher moral sense he was right. He has broken human laws lest he violate a divine law.
This is the essence of the philosophy of bureaucratism. The written laws are, in the eyes of the officials, barriers erected for the protection of scoundrels against the fair claims of society. Why should a criminal evade punishment only because the “State” in prosecuting him has violated some frivolous formalities? Why should a man pay lower taxes only because there is a loophole left in the tax law? Why should lawyers make a living advising people how to profit from the imperfections of the written law? What is the use of all these restrictions imposed by the written law upon the government official’s honest endeavors to make the people happy? If only there were no constitutions, bills of rights, laws, parliaments, and courts! No newspapers and no attorneys! How fine the world would be if the “State” were free to cure all ills!
It is one step only from such a mentality to the perfect totalitarianism of Stalin and Hitler.
The answer to be given to these bureaucratic radicals is obvious. The citizen may reply: You may be excellent and lofty men, much better than we other citizens are. We do not question your competence and your intelligence. But you are not the vicars of a god called “the State.” You are servants of the law, the duly passed laws of our nation. It is not your business to criticize the law, still less to violate it. In violating the law you are perhaps worse than a good many of the racketeers, no matter how good your intentions may be. For you are appointed, sworn, and paid to enforce the law, not to break it. The worst law is better than bureaucratic tyranny.
The main difference between a policeman and a kidnapper and between a tax collector and a robber is that the policeman and the tax collector obey and enforce the law, while the kidnapper and robber violate it. Remove the law, and society will be destroyed by anarchy. The State is the only institution entitled to apply coercion and compulsion and to inflict harm upon individuals. This tremendous power cannot be abandoned to the discretion of some men, however competent and clever they may deem themselves. It is necessary to restrict its application. This is the task of the laws.
The officeholders and the bureaucrats are not the State. They are men selected for the application of the laws. One may call such opinions orthodox and doctrinaire. They are indeed the expression of old wisdom. But the alternative to the rule of law is the rule of despots.
[1. ]Such is the political interpretation of the issue. For the current economic interpretation see below pp. 96–97.