Remember when Obama went to New Jersey after hurricane Sandy and promised homeowners that he’d make sure they could rebuild ASAP “with no red tape?”

Something else happened.  From “This Metamorphosis Will Require A Permit,” by Roger Kimball, a Wall Street Journal reporter, who describes his firsthand experience:

Every [FEMA agent] we’ve encountered has been polite and oozing with sympathy. Even the lady who reduced my wife to tears was nice. The issue was my wife’s proof of income. We sent our tax return to FEMA, but that wasn’t good enough. They wanted pay stubs. My wife works as a freelance writer and editor. She doesn’t get a pay stub. Which apparently makes her a nonperson to this government agency.

In “The Road to Serfdom,” Friedrich Hayek noted that “the power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionnaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work.”

Kimball’s story is one of teh most powerful and illuminating examples of how good intentions combined with an all-powerful bureaucracy accountable to no one creates a living hell:

 …what makes the phenomenon so insidious is that many of the functionaries are as friendly as can be. It’s just that they’re cogs in a machine whose overriding purpose is not service but self-perpetuation and control.

It is, as Alexis de Tocqueville saw, a recipe for a form of despotism peculiar to modern democracies. It does this, wrote Tocqueville, by enforcing “a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules” that reduces citizens “to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.” The sobering thought is that we’re all complicit in that infantilization. After all, we keep voting for the politicians who put this leviathan in place.

We never seem to learn that, whatever the intent of much  government intervention and regulation, that intent is almost never achieved.  All that is accomplished is the further constraint of the freedom of the individual to act effectively and responsibly.  When those who have no stake in an outcome wrest control from those that do, the outcome itself suffers and suffers mightily.

Thanks again to Doug for forwarding this.