State administration



[1791]  Wilhelm von Humboldt,  The Limits of State Action, Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1993

-  "When once thus accustomed to the transaction of State affairs, men more and more loose sight of the essential object, and concentrate on the mere form; they thereupon attempt new improvements, perhaps good in intention, but without sufficient adaptation to the required end; and the harmful effect of these necessitates new forms, new complications, and often new restrictions, and thereby creates new departments, which require for their efficient supervision a vast increase of functionaries. Hence it arises that in  most states from decade to decade the number of the public officials and the extent of registration increase, while the liberty of the subject proportionately declines. In such an administration, moreover, it follows of course that everything depends on the most vigilant supervision and careful management, since there are such increased opportunities of failing short in both; and hence one tries to ensure, up to a point correctly, that everything passes through as many hands as possible in order to avoid the risk of errors and embezzlement."
"But according to this method of transacting affairs, business becomes in time merely mechanical, while the men who are engaged in it relapse into machines, and all genuine worth and honesty decline in proportion as trust and confidence are withdrawn. Finally, as the occupations of which I am speaking must be vested with high importance, the idea of what is momentous or trivial, of what is dignified or contemptible, of what are essential and what are subordinate aims, becomes reversed." (p. 30)

-  "A political community, organized and governed according to this system, resembles an agglomerated mass of living but lifeless instruments of action and enjoyment, rather than a multitude of active and enjoying energies. In disregarding the spontaneity of active beings, such States seem to confine their view to the attainment of happiness and enjoyment alone. But although the calculation would be correct in so far as the test of happiness and enjoyment in the sensations of the person enjoying them, it would still underestimate the dignity of human nature." (p. 31)


[1840]  Alexis de Tocqueville,  De la Démocratie en Amérique, vol. II, Flammarion, Paris, 1981

-  "J'affirme qu'il n'y a pas de pays en Europe où l'administration publique ne soit devenue non seulement plus centralisée, mais plus inquisitive et plus détaillée; partout elle pénètre plus avant que jadis dans les affaires privées; elle règle à sa manière plus d'actions et des actions plus petites, et elle s'établit davantage tous les jours, à côté, autour et au dessus de chaque individu, pour l'assister, le conseiller et le contraindre." (p. 372)


[1863]  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon,  Du Principe Fédératif, Éditions Bossard, Paris, 1921

-  "... le système de centralisation, d'impérialisme, de communisme, d'absolutisme (tous ces mots sont synonymes), découle de l'idéalisme populaire : c'est ainsi que dans le pacte social, conclu à la manière de Rousseau et des jacobins, le citoyen se démet de sa souveraineté, et que la commune, au-dessus de la commune le département et la province, absorbés dans l'autorité centrale, ne sont plus que des agences sous la direction immédiate du ministère.
Les conséquences ne tardent pas à se faire sentir : le citoyen et la commune déchus de toute dignité, les envahissements de l'État se multiplient, et les charges du contribuable croissent en proportion. Ce n'est plus le gouvernement qui est fait pour le peuple, c'est le peuple qui est fait pour le gouvernement. Le Pouvoir envahit tout, s'empare de tout, s'arroge tout, à perpétuité, à toujours, à jamais : Guerre et Marine, Administration, Justice, Police, Instruction publique, créations et réparations publiques; Banques, Bourses, Crédit, Assurances, Secours, Épargnes, Bienfaisance; Forêts, Canaux, Rivières; Cultes, Finances, Douanes, Commerce, Agriculture, Industrie, Transports. Sur le tout un Impôt formidable, qui enlève à la nation le quart de son produit brut [la moitié en France dans l'an 2000]. Le citoyen n'a plus à s'occuper que d'accomplir dans son petit coin sa petite tâche, recevant son petit salaire, élevant sa petite famille, et s'en remettant pour le surplus à la Providence du gouvernement." (pp. 140-141)


[1897]  Piotr Kropotkin,  The State [L'Etat - Son role historique], Freedom Press, London, 1987

-  "... in France, ... when the wind blows down a tree onto the national highway, or a peasant whose turn it is to repair the communal lane prefers to pay two or three francs to a stone breaker to do it - from twelve to fifteen employees of the Ministries of the Interior and of Finance have to be involved and more than fifty documents passed between these austere functionaries, before the tree can be sold, or before the peasant can receive permission to hand over his two or three francs to the communal treasury. Those who may have doubts as to the veracity of this statement will find these fifty documents listed and duly numbered by M. Tricoche in the Journal des Economistes (April 1893)" (p. 48)


[1949]  Benjamin M. Anderson,  Economics and the Public Welfare. A financial and economic history of the United States 1914-1946, Liberty Press, Indianapolis, 1979

-  "The Federal Reserve System was created to finance a crisis and to finance seasonal needs for pocket cash. It was not created for the purpose of financing a boom, least of all for financing a stock market boom. But from early 1924 down to the spring of 1928 it was used to finance a boom and used to finance a stock market boom." (pp. 146-147)

-  "Governmental economic planning is back seat driving by a man who doesn't know how to drive and who, except in wartime, doesn't know where he wants to go. It is, moreover, back seat driving by a man who makes a very heavy charge for his services at the expense of the chauffeur's wages, and who increases these heavy charges month after month. As the chauffeur's wages prove inadequate to support the governmental back seat driver, a mortgage is placed on the car, and inroads are made on the gas and oil of the automobile. Damaged fender are left untouched. The automobile begins to miss its periodic overhauling. Cylinders accumulate carbon and don't all work. The machine slows down and the chauffeur grows jittery.
We had a great deal of this back seat driving for several years preceding the stock market crash, as Secretary Mellon and President Coolidge gave out utterances which whipped up the stock market and encouraged the speculators, while the Federal Reserve System supplied the chauffeur with high-powered gasoline." (p. 225)

-  "... a man in the government's financial system [under Roosevelt] ... said that the Nazis had developed very good technical economic ideas. I said : 'Yes, if you have enough regimentation, if you have control of all commodities and all prices, if you have control of every's man pocketbook and every's man bank balance, if you have control of the farmer's consumption of his own production, if you can control all exports and imports and foreign exchange transactions, and if you have a sufficiently powerful and efficient Gestapo, you can take great liberties with money and credit.'." (p. 538)


[1958]  C. Northcote Parkinson,  Parkinson's Law or the pursuit of progress, with illustrations by Osbert Lancaster, John Murray, London, 1958

-  "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. General recognition of this fact is shown in the proverbial phrase 'It is the busiest man who has time to spare'." "Granted that work (and especially paper work) is thus elastic in its demand on time, it is manifest that there need be little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size of the staff to which it may be assigned." "This fact is widely recognized, but less attention has been paid to its wider implications, more especially in the field of public administration. Politicians and taxpayer have assumed (with occasional phases of doubt) that a rising total in the number of civil servants must reflect a growing volume of work to be done. The fact is that the number of officials and the quantity of work are not related to each other at all." (pp. 4-5)

-  "Here are some typical figures. The strength of the Navy in 1914 could be shown as 146,000 officers and men, 3249 dockyard officials and clerks, and 57,000 dockyard workmen. By 1928 there were only 100,000 officers and men and only 62,439 workmen, but the dockyard officials and clerks by then numbered 4558. As for warships, the strength in 1928 was a mere fraction of what it had been in 1914 - fewer than 20 capital ships in commission as compared with 62. Over the same period the Admiralty officials had increased in number from 2000 to 3569, providing (as was remarked) 'a magnificent navy on land'." (pp. 10-11)
"It would be interesting to follow the further progress by which the 8118 Admiralty staff of 1935 came to number 33,788 by 1954." (p. 13)


[1962]  Milton Friedman with the assistance of Rose D. Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1982

-  "... the Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy. A governmental established agency - the Federal Reserve System - had been assigned responsibility for monetary policy. In 1930 and 1931, it exercised this responsibility so ineptly as to convert what otherwise would have been a moderate contraction into a major catastrophe. Similarly today, governmental measures constitute the major impediments to economic growth in the United States. Tariffs and other restrictions on international trade, high tax burdens and a complex and inequitable tax structure, regulatory commissions, government price and wage fixing, and a host of other measures give individuals an incentive to misuse and misdirect resources, and distort the investment of new savings." (p. 38)

-  "There is much experience to suggest that the most effective way to convert a market economy into an authoritarian economic society is to start by imposing direct controls on foreign exchange." "... full-fledged exchange controls and so-called 'inconvertibility of currencies' ... were invented by Hjalmar Schacht in the early years of the Nazi regime." (p. 57)


[1964]  Vance Packard,  The Naked Society, Longmans, London, 1964

-  "The bedeviling of the individual by governmental bureaus has increased substantially in the past fifteen years. During the same fifteen years, there have been a proliferation and an expansion of governmental units at city, state, and national levels. The two trends are almost certainly related."
"Much of the governmental intrusion into the lives of citizens is unreasonable by any standard of decency. The bureaucrat assumes that the public loves to fill out forms, keep records, and obey regulations as much as he loves to construct and file forms, check records, and issue regulations." (pp. 267-268)

-  "Unquestionably, the greatest triumph of the bureaucratic mind, has been in its capacity to think of ever new reasons why people should have permits or licenses in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. The bedevilment of New Yorkers offers a good case in point. There are now more than a thousand activities for which one needs a municipal, state, or federal licence or permit. The city's License Department alone take in more than $1,500,000 in fees for permits and licenses." (p. 274)


[1999]  Martin van Creveld,  The Rise and Decline of the State, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

-  "... the confidence in the government's ability and willingness to honor its obligations was non-existent; it is not for nothing that, in Hebrew, 'sending one's money down the drain' is derived from a term whose original meaning was 'public treasury'." (p. 55)

-  "Already since the fourteenth century occasional corregidores had been sent to some Castilian towns to oversee their affairs - then as now, the phrase 'I am from the government; I am here to help you' was one of the greatest lies in any language." (p. 113)


[1999]  Louis Bériot,  Abus de Bien Public. Enquête sur les milliards gaspillés par l'Etat. Les chiffres, les preuves, les responsables, Plon, Paris

-  "La décentralisation, dont l'objectif était d'assurer une plus grande efficacité des pouvoirs et une plus grande démocratie dans les décisions, a été et ne reste encore qu'une machine à sécréter de la dépense car elle engendre la multiplication des pouvoirs, la duplication des centres de décisions, l'entassement des structures administratives. Tant et si bien qu'il existe en France, sans compter l'Europe, neuf niveaux administratifs." (p. 78)

-  "C'est ainsi que l'ensemble des collectivités territoriales atteignait, en 1997, 1 600 817 agents, soit 847 000 de plus qu'en 1982. Quand la population française n'augmente que de 200 000 habitants chaque année, la population des fonctionnaires (Etat et collectivités) s'accroît de 100 000 personnes." (p. 79)