I begin to understand that current dissatisfaction with The System© is not a matter of any particular outrage, but one of critical mass. The foreman of the jury in the Blagovich case recommends (for the almost-inevitable retrial):
Streamline the charges, drop some, pick your shots.
…cutting public-sector pay is important for another reason as well. Government officials at the federal, state, and local levels are facing difficult and painful decisions about spending cuts and tax hikes. Getting excessive government pay under control is an excellent means of reestablishing fiscal credibility with economic forecasters, business owners, and—most importantly—voters. It will give long-term budgetary reform a fighting chance of passing.
Nothing substantive is likely in either case, of course. The next Blagojevich trial, or other political corruption inquiry, will be just as complex, because the law under which it will be convened is endlessly complex; and Government workers’ compensation will continue to creep up in all but a few localized incidents. In both cases the people responsible for the problem — the legislators who create ever-more complex laws and the officials and bureaucrats who work to get ever more dependents on the public payroll — will look at critics in astonishment. That’s just the way it is, they will say indignantly. We didn’t do anything wrong. That’s how The System© works.
They’ll be right, of course. Since time immemorial, Government functionaries have looked at their good fortune in acquiring access, however limited, to the stream of money that flows through their hands, and sought to get their relatives, dependents, and buddies in on the grift. Any legislature or lawmaker has a really big hammer to hand, and the tendency to regard any problem or difficulty as a nail is well-nigh irresistible; here in the United States, at some time in the past we appear to have elevated there oughta be a law! to a fundamental principle, as legislators at all levels anxious to somehow respond to their constituents’ complaints employ the only tool available to them.
(Some observers trace that last back to the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, when the “trust busters” and “muckrakers” created legal regimes that appear to have worked to solve social problems — it seems to be a given, for instance, that something like the FDA must exist or consumers will be poisoned by tainted foods and medicines. I go back a little farther, to the establishment of Peel-model “civil police”, which provided lawmakers the gang of goons necessary to visit unpleasant consequences on those who offend against their ukase.)
Every one of those things, taken individually, can be fully justified if you accept the premises behind it. If food quality is a fit subject for legislation, it’s a no-brainer for lawmakers to use their power to insure that people have a healthy diet. You don’t get competent people without offering sufficient compensation; of course the assistant to the assistant deputy secretary to the deputy administrator for road maintenance (gravel quality) must be compent, and that becomes more imperative as the Peter Principle works its inexorable way though the Civil Service.
At some point, though, the accumulation loses its utility and becomes a worse danger than the hazards it seeks to prevent. A five-gram disk of Uranium-235 is an innocuous object which can be handled with impunity; stack enough of them together, and Bad Things™ start to happen. We have long since passed that point with regards to both Government employee compensation and the legal code.
Government employee compensation is, compared to the legal code, relatively easy to sort out. When the City Fathers come to the electorate asking for a tax increase to fix the potholes, the citizens can reasonably say, “Bah. The last time(s) you said that we agreed, and what we got was a proliferation of assistants-to and deputy administrators eating up our substance, and the potholes are still there. Clean up your act first.” It may not happen, and it may not be effective, but it’s at least possible.
Laws will be harder. It is practically impossible to find any single provision of current law that isn’t justifiable, even admirably profitable, and proponents of the status quo are quick to point that out — it is a cliché for a “concern troll” to show up on discussions of the subject and archly suggest doing away with EMTs or building standard regulations. Unfortunately for all of us, the proliferation of laws, regulations, standards, and codes has left us all where we can scarcely move.
>You are in a maze of twisty little laws, all alike >Comply with law >You are in a maze of twisty little laws, all alike >Pay taxes >You are in a maze of twisty little laws, all alike >Avoid law enforcement >You are in a maze of twisty little laws, all alike >[...]
Some method of breaking out of the maze is necessary, before the only solution becomes nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.