We should have a modicum of sympathy for the IRS, says David Foster at Chicago Boys. After all, the dilatory 111th Congress never got around to passing a budget or fully clarifying the tax situation, and made major changes to taxes at the last minute; the tax collectors must now scramble to get everything in place in time for people to file. Commenter lgbpop sneers in response, “Trust me, they don’t care one way or the other.”

Of course lgbpop is correct. The IRS, like any other Government bureaucracy, will take its sweet time getting its ducks in a row, and any untoward consequences resulting will fall on taxpayers, not the bureaucrats. That’s just how they roll.

This illustrates a fundamental failure of public sector Unions. Recent commentary has focussed on pensions and benefits extracted from taxpayers by sweetheart deals between Unions and their (putative) management, the legislators who set their compensation. Snow removal in New York City appears to have been hobbled by a “labor action” in response to recent cuts in Union workers and their compensation. This is normal, if reprehensible, in Union-management relations, but we tend to forget that Unions aren’t just about compensation; there is also the matter of work rules. Trouble is, the public sector Unions seem to have forgotten that, too.

We all live, today, under a maze of complicated and often contradictory laws, regulations, and rules. Legislatures from city Councils and school boards all the way up to the Congress continually add more and more prohibitions and requirements with little, if any, consideration of their interaction with previous ukases — or on their impact on those who must enforce them.

A street cop only has so much time and effort available. Should he be on the lookout for drunk drivers, potheads, car thieves, or violators of residential setback regulations? He can’t do it all — it isn’t that he doesn’t want to (whether he does or not), it’s that he can’t. He hasn’t the resources. Similarly, the tax code has grown so Byzantine that no one fully comprehends it, and now there are major provisions which must be incorporated into enforcement that only appeared at the last minute, requiring a scramble to implement them.

If a car company waited until the last minute to introduce the plans and procedures for introducing a new model, then demanded that the workers scramble frantically and put in extra effort to get everything in place so the new car could be rolled out on time, the UAW would be on the case in minutes. If, in addition, the new plans and procedures had to be implemented without taking the old ones out, requiring the workers to do several contradictory things at once, the likely outcome would be for the Union to down tools and wait for Management to get its act together, possibly even a strike.

When was the last time a Police Officer’s Association went out on strike for a clear and consistent set of laws to enforce, with priorities delineated? Hell, when was the first time? It is to laugh. Here’s a case where the interests of the cops and the citizens coincide — both would be well served by a comprehensible set of laws, the citizens because it is clear guidance for behavior, the police because it would provide comprehensible rules for what they should or should not do. Do they do that? Of course not. They simply shake their heads and go for selective enforcement. Today we’ll chase drunks, and tomorrow we’ll hassle people for parking SUVs on the street and let the drunks go. Does the IRS complain and threaten to picket on the grounds that the regulations they must enforce are incomprehensible? Not only no, but Hell no. Instead, what they’ve done is agitate for, and get, a provision that exempts them from knowing what they’re doing, while still holding taxpayers liable for full compliance!

The first time we meet the character “Angel Eyes” in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly he is interrogating Stevens, a former associate he was on good terms with. After apparently renewing that relationship, including taking on a new commission, Angel Eyes reveals that he has been paid to kill the man. Stevens protests, but Angel Eyes remarks calmly and with a little regret, “I taken the money,” and shoots him.

This is the attitude of today’s enforcers, whether beat cops or tax collectors. They taken the money from their employers, and regardless of how foolish, contradictory, or reprehensible their required duties may be, they are prepared to carry them out to the best of their ability. It is the credo of the goon, who abandons his own morals and judgement in favor of doing what his employer demands. It is sad but true that tyrants and other criminal lords can always find goons to do their bidding, people who are willing to discard their own morals and ethics and allow their bosses to make those decisions. Ah, that Vinnie, he ain’t smart but he’s loyal, he’d shoot his grandmother if he got the order.

IRS bureaucrats are also American citizens. If they were carrying out the duties of citizens they would be protesting the crap they are required to enforce, and they have a Union to back up their work rules protest. Instead, they adopt the credo of the goon — the boss says do this, so it must be “justice”. Of course, part of the credo of the goon is  corruption. If the boss says shoot your grandmother, or turf her out of house and home for failure to pay in full, the goon works around to find a way to escape complying with the orders. The cop looks the other way where his friends are involved; the IRS agent shuffles paperwork to ignore Grandma’s non-compliance. At best, that leaves the system they should be protesting fully in place while adding more complications other people must cope with to it.

No sympathy for the IRS. They get extra work or a noose, whichever is appropriate. They taken the money.