The current abuse of power scandal at the IRS is, of course, alarming to all of us, and it’s investigation will take its course. But it has got me thinking about the antithetical mindsets and personalities of the radically accountable entrepreneur and the anonymously unaccountable governmental bureaucrat.
First of all, taxes are important. They allow a civil society to function. I personally have no objection to raising taxes for legitimate and necessary functions. We need our army. We need our teachers, our highways, our doctors, our governmental engineers and architects, our social workers, our diplomats. We need to have a compassionate safety net for our poorest citizens.
The problem, however, is not these noble and useful government functions that the IRS collects money to appropriately support. The problem comes with a too large and unmanageable superstructure; an almost unimaginable governmental labyrinth that is simply too large to be supervised. (Note my fear of the potential chaos of the mother of all unaccountable bureaucracies, Obamacare, coming in a mere seven months. (“Obamacare Agonistes and Entrepreneurship“)
When bureaucrats are unleashed without accountability, the personal nature of the people who are manning the cryptic recesses of the bureaucracy become especially important.
In the case of the IRS functionary, let us consider who is drawn to this task. The IRS is universally hated, feared, and loathed. So who is most likely to be drawn to such a darkly powerful, but increasingly unaccountable, job? I would suggest that it attracts a certain number of incompetents seeking safe lives and job security. Logic might also militate that the IRS would attract many who are not particularly sensitive to the practical happiness of their fellow man nor to constitutional law, but who rather like the bullying opportunities offered by their sinecures of unaccountable power.
The incentive to quash any force inimical to growing the power and constantly increased funding of this oligarchy is clear in the IRS’ stonewalling of Congressional subpoenas concerning harassment of citizens and non-profits not in lockstep with a philosophy of augmenting the constantly growing power of the IRS—an IRS increasingly immune to the pesky voices of citizens.
One may well conjecture that the very existence of the creative, impassioned entrepreneur is a burr in the saddle of such bureaucratic oligarchs. While the present IRS excesses are not aimed specifically at our entrepreneurial community, their logic has implications for us as a fiercely independent source of societal business health outside government. Our very existence is an admonishment and a defiance of the bureaucratic trop.
IRS official Lois Lerner took the Fifth Amendment to avoid self incrimination before Congress last week, but in written testimony she admitted targeting any person or organization “involved in limiting government or educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights….” Dear me.
In describing the Nazi takeover of Germany, Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller said the following, “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it more succinctly, “The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.”
Thank you, Pastor Niemoller. Thank you, Mr. Jefferson.