My Recent Kafkaesque Experience
It may not be the kind of experience many others have had other than at the Department of Motor Vehicles but I recently went through one that brought to mind Franz Kafka.
I have been trying to refinance my house for months but my bank, Wells Fargo, refused to even talk about it. I had there one of the brusquest bankers, as bad as any bureaucrat I've dealt with from the feds. But in time my tenacity won out and I divorced Wells Fargo but not before I went through a pretty wild bureaucratic side trip.
To get refinanced I was told I had to come up with my social security card. I received that back in 1956 and haven't seen it since so I didn't even try to find it but went straight to trying to get a replacement copy. To do this I had to send Social Security my passport to prove that I am a citizen. (I am a naturalized one of those and having been smuggled out of Hungary, I have no birth certificate.)
I filled out the needed forms and sent in the passport but never heard back from them with the new card I needed. Well, since I was planning a trip abroad, I had to have a passport but social security played deaf and dumb. Finally I went to Los Angeles, a 100 mile round trip, and got a brand new passport (after spending hours on the phone about it all), which cost me a couple of 100 mile road trips to the federal building there, plus some $200 and price of passport pictures, etc., etc. I was to pick up the new passport at 1:00 PM one day but of course they didn't get it ready until 2:00-plus. And dealing with these folks is a pain since they all treat you like you are some subject, never mind being a citizen of a supposedly free country by whom they are supposedly employed.
So in time I did get the new passport into my hands and was ready to board my plane. Since where I was to go requires a visa, that added another small bureaucratic step to the proceedings. (My private sector travel agent was very helpful with this, also very pleasant, in contrast to the public servant federal agents I encountered.)
Of course all the steps I needed to take were routine but no less drab and annoying for that. The federal building in Los Angeles reminded me of that monstrosity in Bucharest that the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausesco built over several acres, an architectural obscenity if there ever was one. This American version was just a little bit more tolerable and no more user friendly.
Mind you, thousands go through the experience of dealing with the feds and paying for their ineptitude. I was told that the reason I needed to come up with the Social Security card is that Homeland Security now requires it when one refinances or buys a home but then just after I did my best to comply with this, I was informed that it wasn't really needed, after all. But by then I had mailed my passport off and the loss of it was pretty much guaranteed. (It'll probably turn up somewhere "in the system" over the next year and I will be able to stick it away as a souvenir.)
One element of these relatively petty experiences is that one just has no leverage with the several functionaries one must deal with. Since any one of them can put a monkey wrench in the proceedings, standing there and looking intimidating in their uniforms, even if I refrain from arguing with them. (Why do they say 1 PM when it is actually 2 PM? Why do they say they needed the Social Security card but then it turns out they do not?)
Not that these are Earth shaking matters but if one multiplies them by several hundred thousands, even millions, one begins to grasp just how inefficient governments are and how readily they muck things up in society. The functionaries certainly do not treat you as citizen-customers to whom they need to show some deference! They all comport themselves with the attitude that they have the upper hand and you should be grateful that they do their jobs for you. Or something.
And I am actually somewhat prepared for this kind of an experience, having been acclimated to it from my early years in "communist" Hungary and over the years as I moved through various layers of officialdom as a refugee, in the military, at state universities, etc., etc. And all along I was actually trying to pay attention since I was also a student of the system!
I thus feel for all those folks who are required to submit to the system! What a nightmare! Kafkaesque, indeed.
Tibor Machan is a member of the Advisory Board for The Foundation for the Advancement of Free-Market Thinking (FAFMT) and the R. C. Hoiles Professor of Business Ethics & Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman University in Orange, CA.
Posted by Leviathanfighter on 01/15/13 02:56 AM
I have railed against government the same way for years. The older I get, the more I hate government. I am now a Libertarian anarchist, a la Murray Rothbard.
I search in vain for the "good" which allegedly comes from government. I easily find the bad which comes from it. Relatively few people seem prepared to do without government, though. Why is this?
It's obvious why bureaucrats love government; it makes them feel superior, privileged, and different from ordinary people. The can be arrogant and imperious under the color of law. Look at Hitler's father. So very proud of being a "civil servant"! And he probably never let people forget it, either! But isn't it interesting that the young Hitler hated the idea of becoming a civil servant?
I am amazed at the people who support, even celebrate the orgy of power which is government. Socialized medicine makes me shudder!
Thank God that governments, like people, have a life cycle. They cannot endure forever. I look forward to the demise of government and bureaucracy.
Posted by speedygonzales on 01/14/13 10:24 PM
First thing what I learned in america was that there are 2 clases of citizens: Federal employee credit union, pension funds and so on and rest of us who fight capitalist competition which is actually sin. Then I realized, that there is no traffic law which people learn before get driver's license. And absence of Citizen card is making this world really Kafkaesque when they asking 2 forms of ID. Misery started when they put together driver license with ID. Drivers license is like high school diploma. It is proof that this person went thru proces and test and is able operate motor vehicle on public roads.And in most countries on driver's license there was no expiration as it was important to show citizen card as well. This create unbelievable problems in 21st century. Voter ID on one side. On other side countles foreigners were ticketed as "no driver license" as they showed police international standard driver license from their country. And this absurdity to sending original documents is unbelievable. On Naturalization certificate is writen: It is unlawfull to make copy of this document under penalty. But as for passport they ask COPY of Naturalization certificate.
Actually. I think administration, education and qualification was lot more efective in some communists countries than is in US. Because there was not enough money. High school was enough for administration job, in US college which shortens age of productivity and producing debt- create overeducation. There were specialized high schools-4 years and schools of trade-3 years, so they did not mix good and bad students under one roof. High school for nurses,teachers,engineering. And school of trades for car mechanics,tourism-waitress/chef, construction etc. At age 18 kids had some certificate in hands, but also serious knowledge and were ready for R'n R.
American system is engineered for withdrawing money out of pocket, without doubts. It is serious beaurocratic system even on most primitive things as driver license/citizen card and 2 ID requirements.
In those commie countries they accepted notarized copy of documents, why sending original?
Posted by magnacarta on 01/14/13 08:15 PM
We can get even when they come for the guns. Ha Ha Ha Ha What a joke that will be.
Posted by Leave me be on 01/14/13 08:06 PM
Sorry for the typo:
1: Are you the President of the United States of America.
Posted by Leave me be on 01/14/13 07:38 PM
If he ever came to visit my little abode, I'd welcome the opportunity to ask him a few questions. After all, he is a "Constitutional scholar".
1. Are you the President of the United State of America? His answer will be yes.
2. Are you the President of the United States? His answer will be yes.
3. What is the difference? He would probably shut up at that point and leave me be.
Posted by laceja on 01/14/13 05:22 PM
Leave me be:
Tell that to Obama.
Posted by MoeCLarry on 01/14/13 04:56 PM
This is routine with the FedGov. It can only get worse, not better.
Thanks for sharing your personal nightmare. I have several SS cards just in case. Same number of course. Not vaild if not signed. Your mileage will vary.
Posted by Leave me be on 01/14/13 04:54 PM
You may want to consider picking up a copy of Volume 1 of the United States Code from the US Government Printing Office. There you will find all four Organic Laws of the United States of America in one place, along with a listing of all Titles of the United States Code. Once you read all four Organic Laws, in order, and understand how they relate to each other, you will have a useful tool for dealing with most bureaucrats. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet, but knowledge tends to trump programming and ignorance. One important point to remember is that Americans kicked the King to the curb is 1783. Congress and the President of the United States of America did not replace him. They have not the power.
Posted by Friend_of_John_Galt on 01/14/13 04:49 PM
Your experience with the passport office or DMV or most any other government agency (city, state, Federal) is quite common. Run around and petty annoying rules to comply with.
I'm rather less impressed with your experience with Wells Fargo -- they should know better and I've certainly had better experience(s) with them (though I didn't get a loan, either). It helps if you have a healthy balance on deposit with them... There is a point at which "more affluent" customers are given access to a "private banker" who will do wonders in clearing away some of the bureaucratic overhead. Above $10 million, your account gets handled entirely by the "private bank" department. (Then you don't have to deal with the beginning employees at all... )
In defense of WFB real estate loan department, I suspect that they were simply trying to comply with the moving target of ever changing government rules (from the Feds, the Government Sponsored Enterprise likely to buy your loan, and other Federal agencies involved with overseeing various regulations and programs). It is also likely that a low-level processing clerk or newly graduated college student-employee was handling your paperwork -- and they did not fully understand the requirement. While I've been frequently asked for (a photo copy of) my Social Security card and (a photo copy of) my (state issued) driver's license for certain identity requirements, in almost all cases a U.S. Passport (photocopy) also meets the identity requirement involved. Photo ID (drivers license) and SS Card separately prove (1) your identity and (2) legality to work in the U.S. A U.S. issued passport provides both proofs with only one document. This is most commonly used on form I-9 that creates a record that an individual is who they say they are and are legally allowed to work in the U.S. (I like using a Passport for this purpose as it does not include my SSN and is thus less convenient to use to steal one's identity for credit fraud).
The part that amazes me the most are the fools that experience this type of uncaring lack of service at the hands of the government workforce that STILL want the government to take over health care. It's bad enough being shoved around while trying to renew a drivers license or get a new passport -- but I'm incredulous that anyone might want to have similar service at the local emergency room while having a heart attack.
Posted by Melissa on 01/14/13 04:40 PM
Good article. Maybe we should establish a new agency, Federal Employees Evaluation System, or FEES... ..three bad evaluations and you're out. Of course, FEES would require thousands of new federal employees and would cost us lots of money to operate. And, who would evaluate the FEES employees?
Posted by jetgraphics on 01/14/13 04:09 PM
According to the Declaration of Independence, governments have two jobs:
secure rights, and
govern those who consent.
Since they weren't securing rights, I suspect that consent is at the root of your troubles.
Posted by Just John on 01/14/13 03:11 PM
Posted by Jubal on 01/14/13 02:09 PM
The money they are paid is stolen from us by force (sorry for the redundancy). We cannot refuse their "services" and the surrendering of our money for the payments, so why should they show any deference to us? We are jus cattle in the tax-farm and we are treated in accordance with our tax-slave condition.
Posted by Jeanna on 01/14/13 07:46 AM
They make you ask permission to live. An East German refuge during the 1980's described life just this way. It was all of the gov't regulations that caused everyone to stand in line most of the day just to be able to function in the society they structured to rule the people. A thousand little cuts still bleed you to death.
Posted by Agent Pete 8 on 01/14/13 07:22 AM
The amount and scale of "consents" you signed/acquiesced to during that exercise, would be close to a trillion.
Peace requires and depends on consent.