L. von Mises, The essence of bureaucratism

When a German says ceder 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 handy man, 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.