The tyranny of bureaucracy

Byline: | Category: Culture, Government, Regulations | Posted at: Sunday, 8 January 2012

After I leave here in a couple weeks, there are going to be a lot of things I will miss about Germany.  Sunday isn’t one of them.

Finally.  I had been waiting days for the weather to break. Rain, cold, snow, wind–almost every day this week has been the same.  About two hours ago, while I was cleaning out my bedroom, I saw a strange glimmer on the wall—the sheen of natural light peaking through the window.  There was a gap of blue between the clouds.  I raced out to the car, hooked up the bike rack and put my bike on it.  Off I went to the self-service car wash to powerwash away the grime so that the bike would be clean enough to ship back to the States.  After that I was going to return with the car and do the same.

So I got there and plugged some change into the machine.  Nothing.  Put the coin in again.  Nothing.  The machine wouldn’t accept any coins.  Broken, I thought.  Or maybe it was full and couldn’t hold any more money.  I moved the car to another bay.  Again, nothing.  It takes credit cards, so I tried that.  Nothing!  Again! I tried a third and gave up.

No signs.  No explanation.  Just the shared German expectation, apparently, that washing your car on Sundays is verboten.  It doesn’t matter that the exercise in vehicular cleanliness bothers not a soul and requires no one to work on their “day of rest.”  Never mind the fact that in this post-religious society there is no scriptural basis for closing—which wouldn’t be justification anyway. It is simply that YOU WILL NOT DO ANY WORK ON SUNDAY!

I wanted to scream.  But that’s one of the problems with the tyranny of bureacracy: at whom would I curse?  Rules that are made for everyone are made by no-one.  Complaining is like punching the wind.

Unfortunately, America is playing catch up with ther Germans.  Whether it’s a sex shop in Missouri or incandescent light bulbs in your home, American government of both the left and the right is increasingly comfortable telling you how you must live your life.  It wasn’t always like this.  But unfortunately it’s one of the perils of big government.  When government is responsible for 40% of a nation’s spending, government will necessarily involve itself in 40% of its countrymen’s decisions. 

Sad.  Sad too is the fact that my narrow window of opportunity is now closed; it’s raining again.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Glenn for the link.  While you’re here, please look around.

I’ve received a few emails.  Some with similar stories.  Others expressing support for the idea of a mandated day of rest. 

Here’s the thing about the soft tyranny of bureaucracy: if you stimulate soft tyranny enough, it will grow hard.

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13 Responses to “The tyranny of bureaucracy”

  1. Instapundit » Blog Archive » BOB KRUMM: The Tyranny Of Bureaucracy. Says:

    [...] BOB KRUMM: The Tyranny Of Bureaucracy. [...]

  2. egoist Says:

    Nailed it!!! This is why I am so negative on our prospects. You could cycle out every elected official, but you cannot pull a single toothpick from the superstructure of bureaucracy; it is connected to 100 others that are connected to 100 others. Maybe if congress simply can’t agree to fund a given dept., and they’re just starved out.

  3. JamesB_Bkk Says:

    Have not the blue laws of my youth dissipated?

  4. willis Says:

    When you arrive back at the US make sure you are properly submissive to the mindless government slugs employed by the TSA who are waiting to invade the privacy of your body.

  5. RightwingHippyChick Says:

    ‘Sonntagsruhe’ (lit. Sunday peace) has nothing whatsoever to do with bureaucracy, and there are still many Germans who want to enjoy Sunday in peace without people washing their cars or making a lot of noise and smell, which is why the Sonntagsruhe is also part of the standard tenancy agreement, if you break it, you can get evicted.

    In lots of flats you can’t even run your washer on Sunday or before 7am and after 10pm any other day — it may sound strict, but… the problem is that in the large tenements, the entire house can hear the spinning. If there are 20 families and everyone washes on Sunday… it is not going to be very peaceful all day, that’s why.

    So, that is why even in modern times, most people kind of like their Sonntagsruhe, even atheists. And why people can get rather shirty with you if you break the rule… :)

    Religiously, the Sunday in Germany for Christians is what the Sabbath is in Israel(also compare the rule about not working!) and yes, the scripture indeed designates the Sunday as the ‘day of rest’.

    Socially, it has an important function to allow people a day of rest without toil, smell, noise and all the family present, and the time the Sonntagsruhe harks back to also was when everyone went to church in their best clothes. It also gave everyone a break from their often tough jobs, I guess the church functioned like a union here a bit, no matter how lowly the serf(the last serf was freed in 1830 in Germany), Sunday was the day of rest and no Gutsherr (Lord of the Manor) would dare to disrespect Gods’ commands, and sin by forcing his subjects to work.


    Should there have been a sign informing you of German custom of Sonntagsruhe? Erm, no, it’s a car wash, not a tourist attraction designed to raise cultural awareness *grin*

    Have a nice sunday y’all :)

    Ed: Both car washes I went to were not within a hundred meters of a home. One was in an industrial park. So no-one was going to have their precious Sonntagsruhe disturbed by the noise of me washing my car. And if they had been, they probably would have been disturbed first by the sound of the coin-operated vacuum cleaner, which since it isn’t “washing a car,” isn’t against the law on Sunday.

    I believe it was the recently departed Vaclav Havel (who knew a thing or two about living under tyrany) who said words to the effect of. “Forget the distinction liberal and conservative; there are only two kinds of politicians: those who would tell you how to live your lives, and those who would not.” You, obviously, count yourself among the first group.

    Your smug, self-righteous condescension, aside, I’m sure that somewhere on right or left there exists a prohibition a majority of society would impose upon you, even though it’s effects are limited only to you. (I believe we’ve already found that prohibition–see below.) Too bad; I guess you’ll just have to suck it up without complaint.

    Have a nice day, and I hope you’re Sunday isn’t disturbed by someone whose priorities aren’t exactly the same as yours.
    Oh . . . btw, are you the same “Rightwinghippychick” who wrote this at NRO:

    “Why won’t those nannies go away?

    Because they are getting paid handsomely for harassing us.

    They are the same people who brought us the smoking bans, and now that smoking is banned, the next issue has to be found, which is ‘obesity’ and also ‘alcohol’, with ‘binge drinking’ being their war slogan.”

    Who’s the nanny now?

  6. mishu Says:

    Now you know why Germans have so many vacation days. You have to take the day off to do laundry, wash the car, get the oil changed … Yes, it’s an efficient use of time. It’s one thing I don’t miss about Germany.

  7. Tee3 Says:

    I had a good career with a U.S. federal agency that was chartered in 1902 with a well defined mission. This mission was completed in the 1970s but the agency is still here, casting about, trying to identify a new mission. In fact, it’s mission is to keep all the bureaucrats on the payroll and trying to look busy and important!
    A government agency is the closest we have today to eternal life.

  8. Milpundit Says:

    A few years back Congress finally eliminated the Telephone Tax of 1898, designed to fund the Spanish-American War. That was a rare success story.

    There are something like 26,000 regulations governing the selling of asparagus in the U.S.

    I think we’re already a nanny state.

  9. RightwingHippyChick Says:

    I was trying to explain to you that Sonntagsruhe is an ancient national custom and why it’s so ingrained in the national psyche.

    Nannyism occurs when outsiders take to inventing new rules to impose their way on others whilst going against common sense and local traditions.

    So, with all due respect, I think that tourists who demand that the locals change their traditions are the true nannies here.

    ;-)

    Ed: Having lived in Germany for nearly six years, I’m rather familiar with the custom. That doesn’t mean I have to like it; nor have I asked for them to change it. It’s good that there’s at least something at which Germans are less efficient; otherwise how would Americans be able to compete?

    More importantly, is the artificial distinction that you attempt to make regarding what makes a nanny. It is not where the directive comes from. Whether the source of the prohibition is external or agreed to internally by a majority, nannyism is when the law directs that you do something for your own benefit, when it is only you (or largely you) who is effected by the action. Forbidding a 19-year-old from drinking, while it is apparently popular, is still a very nanny thing to do. Just as it is nannyism to prohibit me from washing my car in an industrial park on a Sunday afternoon.

  10. SenatorMark4 Says:

    Can you imagine what effect something like a sunset requirement might have on taxes and regulations? Requiring the legislators and bureaucrats to RE-issue/RE-tax things every six(?) years would be something that would keep them busy and OUT of our business. There is nothing quite as dangerous as a bored bureaucrat.

  11. richard40 Says:

    “When government is responsible for 40% of a nation’s spending, government will necessarily involve itself in 40% of its countrymen’s decisions.”

    Its actually even worse than that. Once you add in various regulatory mandates, and the effect of various esoteric tax code provisions, where gov does not pay the bill but we do, its more like 60% for average people, and 80% if you own a business. No wonder many US businesses now spend more money on lobbyists and campaign contributions, than they do on R&D and product development.

  12. Chipotle Says:

    I spent some time in Germany in the 80s and 90s – At least in your stay you could go shopping Saturday afternoons and weekday early evenings. Back then All stores were required to be closed evenings and all but one Saturday afternoon. Shopping Saturday morning was a real pain because everyone else who works could only shop then as well – a permanent shopping “rush-hour”. Germany actually liberalized on this.

  13. BobKrumm.com » Chaos on the Costa Concordia Says:

    [...] everything in order?”  Germans certainly take rules and order to an extreme, as I complained last week.  But German order is certainly preferable to Italian anarchy–at least in small [...]