HOW BUREAUCRATS THINK

Monthly Column by Jim Robertson, August 1994

You, as a freedom-oriented individual, have certain attitudes and ways of looking at the world that affect how you interact with other individuals. Bureaucrats have a fundamentally different orientation that affects how they view you. You probably believe in conducting your affairs in any way you choose - privately if you wish - so long as you don't trample on the rights of others. Bureaucrats usually don't think like this. Some bureaucrats give lip-service to freedom, but in practice will do everything they can ("just doing my job" is a typical excuse) to thwart your freedom.

One principle we emphasize is the Power Message Principle described in Report #10: How to Achieve and Increase Personal Power. This approach centers on what words and actions to use to accomplish your goals. When you deal with other freedom-oriented individuals, your words and actions can reflect what their attitudes are in terms of viewing the world. Likewise, to deal effectively with bureaucrats you should tailor your words and actions to reflect how bureaucrats typically view the world.

The most important keys to increasing your personal power are indeed within you, such as fully realizing that you are free by nature (simple proposition, but very difficult for most people to grasp at first). But to fully exercise personal power you do need to take into account the attitudes of individuals who may move against you if you don't approach them with appropriate insights.

Categories of the Attitudes Individuals Have - Freedom-oriented individuals are with us in significant numbers. You may feel alone sometimes - but the number of Freedom-oriented individuals for you to network with is growing rapidly.

The vast majority of individuals are probably neither particularly freedom-oriented nor particularly bureaucratically-oriented - though their lives are probably mostly non-free because they have fallen victim to the brainwashing of the bureaucrats.

A third major category of individuals consists of bureaucrats. These people can be dangerous to your well-being if you are freedom-oriented. Some insight into how these people think is instrumental in avoiding the surrender of your personal power to them.

What are Some of the Attitudes of Bureaucrats? Bureaucrats tend to think that following the rules, at any cost and using whatever force or coercion necessary for enforcement, is one of the most important aspects of their jobs. In their view, their jobs and lives are given meaning when they can convince or force as many people as possible to follow their rules. What purpose lies behind the rules means little. Much more important to them is that the rules be written and enforced for their own sake. In other words, the rules themselves and the procedures for creating and changing those rules are of paramount importance. Of only secondary or tertiary importance are: (1) what happens as a result of their rule-creation and rule-enforcement (by force); (2) what is the underlying purpose of those rules in the first place; and (3) what methods are used to enforce those rules and the consequences of using those methods.

Who are Bureaucrats? Bureaucrats in their most pernicious form are those who directly make their living from the compulsive creation and enforcement of rules by force.

Are Rules Bad Per Se? Of course not. Some rules - such as "respect others and the property of others", are necessary for harmonious human interaction. Rules should continuously be reevaluated, updated, and improved. Rules should be guidelines, not ends in and of themselves. Rules should be viewed as paradigms or models to guide decision-making.

Entire systems for making these models should be continuously reevaluated, updated, and improved. No system of rules should ever become a be-all and end-all in itself.

What is the View of the Average Higher-Level Bureaucrat? For higher-level bureaucrats, it is very important to make sure that systems implementing the bureaucratic way of viewing the world proliferate. This includes both the creation and enforcement of rules for their own sake as well as the proliferation of bureaucratic organizations and systems (see my column from last month for more on this). This expands the power and influence of higher-level bureaucrats. They maximize their power in a world which emphasizes their view of the world. They create more jobs for their fellow bureaucrats. They gain more money and prestige. They gain power by getting other bureaucrats - and you! - to follow their orders. They gain power to the extent they can convince and force you to surrender your personal power.

What is the View of the Average Lower-Level Bureaucrat? For lower-level bureaucrats, the main focus is on trudging through the day to get to the weekend. They mostly just want to pass the time without getting into trouble. In general, they have low self-esteem and can be particularly vicious to those who give them anything they perceive as a hassle in the day-to-day functions of their little domains. Most of them would have a difficult time functioning personally or professionally outside of their bureaucratic jobs, so they exercise a perverted form of personal power in their little domains by arbitrarily interpreting and enforcing by force or threat of force the rules they think should apply. See my column from last month for some observations on the type of person who becomes a bureaucrat. Since they have low self-esteem, they tend to view as a threat anyone who ridicules or questions their ability, intelligence, morality, or judgment.

The average lower-level bureaucrat views conformity to his/her interpretation of the rules as a virtue. Anyone different is a troublemaker. Such lower-level bureaucrats give lip-service to being tolerant, but in saying this they are usually lying. From a practical standpoint this is important for you - as a freedom-oriented individual - to recognize. To accomplish your goals you should present a facade of conformity to lower-level bureaucrats. Do not tell them your true freedom-oriented viewpoints. You won't convert them anyway. Plus, when they hear your views on freedom and diversity they normally become quite resentful, bitter, angry, and may even become resolute in trying to take away your personal power. Generally, they cannot tolerate a freedom-oriented view of the world (they could not look at themselves in the bathroom mirror before work if they tried to). Since most people would like to believe they are doing their job reasonably well, a person in a lower-level bureaucratic job simply cannot tolerate non-conformity with the rules in his/her little domain.

The average lower-level bureaucrat compulsively believes in following and giving orders for their own sake. The reason behind an order matters little; what is important to these people is that the order be obeyed. Disobedience of the order of a superior-ranked bureaucrat is a very serious transgression - a sin against the code of obedience! A bureaucrat fears losing his/her job more than almost anything else; disobedience by itself is often grounds for the fire and brimstone of termination. As to the few lower-level bureaucrats who might occasionally think about the morality of their actions - well, the mere fact that an ORDER was given by a superior-ranked bureaucrat is morality enough! (Hitler's henchmen were "just following orders and doing their jobs.")

How Does the Average Lower-Level Bureaucrat View You? Probably with a great deal of contempt. Bureaucrats don't like freedom-oriented individuals. You need to take this into account when you deal with them (which I hope isn't too often!).

The average lower-level bureaucrat views your time with contempt, and cares little (or not at all) about the demands on your time and resources that may result from his/her orders. As a practical matter, you should never tell or imply to a bureaucrat that what they are doing in interacting with you is a waste of time. Why? The fact that they're wasting your time and effort is of no consequence because to them you are a slave whose function in life is to follow their orders. If you question the use of their time, that's even worse. If you do that, you will certainly get a negative result because then you are calling into question the very existence of their job function and usefulness in life. You are right, of course: generally, their job is Value Destruction which should be eliminated. Since bureaucrats fear job loss above almost anything else, it makes sense not to tell them that what they are doing is valueless and a complete waste of time.

Just as an order from a superior-ranked bureaucrat is morality and reason enough to do about anything on the job, so they feel about orders they give to you. Some of them may couch the order in nice language, but at root they perceive themselves as an order-giver and you as the obedient slave of that order. This insight is critical for you to apply the Power Message Principle of Report #10: How to Achieve and Increase Personal Power in any dealings you might have with these people. Of course, they don't specifically think of you as a "slave" and would deny that vehemently. They think that way because they believe that because a superior-ranked bureaucrat gave an order for them to order you to do something, they must therefore do that to perform their jobs. Furthermore, the source of their authority to do so emanates from the ORDER of the superior-ranked bureaucrat ITSELF. You must obey because you are subject to that order.

Now, you as a freedom-oriented individual recognize that you are a Sovereign Individual. Your personal power emanates from your individual consciousness, thinking ability, and control of the energy that animates your body. But, reasoning with these lower-level bureaucrats is generally fruitless and could get you into a lot of unnecessary difficulty. They easily become quite resentful, bitter, angry, and may even become resolute to make your life difficult.

From a practical standpoint, you're usually best off pretending to be their obedient slave. Now, whether you actually are their obedient slave will vary with the specific circumstance. You can manifest obedience sometimes because you wish to concentrate on more important aspects of your personal freedom. To what degree you actually obey is of secondary concern; the main focus is on what the lower-level bureaucrat THINKS you are saying or doing.

The small personal power surrender called for here will frequently allow you to implement major increases in your practical personal freedom in other areas of your life. Let's call this the "optimization of practical freedom in your life." I think this is is a fine application of Freedom Technology. For example, while deciding you won't exceed the posted speed limit you may simultaneously be rearranging your affairs so that you get expert advice and study materials such that you reach the good-faith belief that you may not be personally liable for some kinds of statutory taxes. You may make your assets judgment-proof (i.e., no thieves of any kind can steal your property).

(Frederick Mann: You may sometimes find yourself in a situation where you can refuse to obey a bureaucrat, or ridicule or embarrass a bureaucrat, with little risk to yourself. Deep down, some bureaucrats are disgusted with their jobs. By confronting them and demonstrating your disgust - particularly in public - you may just help induce them to quit their jobs and become useful human beings.)

How Does This Relate to Options? By increasing your options you increase your personal power.

Bureaucrats try to stifle you by making only one option available to you (the current order from a superior-ranked bureaucrat they are following that day). You can keep your options open by keeping that bureaucrat happy by appearing to be obedient to that order to the extent that is practical for you. Then, you have options open to you that are outside of the little domain of that average lower-level bureaucrat.

Are There Any Other Approaches? There are almost always other approaches (options!) available to you. One key paradigm is going outside of the bureaucrat's specific domain.

Bureaucrats are actually quite limited in the ways in which they believe they can give orders to you. Because in their world-view their authority emanates only from the orders of higher-ranked bureaucrats, they must obey the rules of this way of looking at things. Such orders from higher-ranked bureaucrats usually cover limited geographic domains and limited subject-matter domains. Simply arrange your personal and business affairs across the domains of many different bureaucrats! Now, this will take some time and effort on your part. But you can exercise your personal power and freedom much more effectively with this paradigm.

The beauty of this paradigm is that even if a bureaucrat would be unhappy and try to impede you if your thought or activity were in his/her little domain, by his/her own standards the bureaucrat doesn't care much (or at all) about similar thoughts or activities in other domains. So the bureaucrat leaves you alone to practice your personal freedom! Diversity of your domains is a key aspect of implementing Freedom Technology.