Burning Man

There’s an old gag in DC about and it goes something like this. The city seizes a building for tax reasons and while the tax case is being litigated they will have to take care of the building. They put up a fence and hire a security guard.

It becomes clear that they need more than one guard so they hire a team of them to guard the building 24×7. Those guards need a supervisor so they hire one of those and an administrator to process their paperwork. Each year the budget for the building security staff gets bigger and they add staff until one day Congress cuts their budget so they lay off the security guards.

Some variation of that gag has been kicking around, I bet, since Diocletian. Bureaucracy tends to proves things about human nature that the people in favor of bureaucracy vigorously deny.

One of those things is that humans are naturally tribal. Group a bunch of strangers under a banner and they will quickly be a team. Give them a common incentive and they will quickly acquire a collective identity that transcends their individual identities.

It’s why bureaucracies become self-aware. The people inside soon put the needs of the group ahead of all else, including the stated purpose of the group. The people at your local department of motor vehicles (Ministry of Transport for my British readers) are more focused on what’s good for the department than on serving the public.

Here’s a good example from the upcoming Burning Man.

Burning Man festival organizers are pushing back after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management requested upgraded accommodations for its officials at this year’s event in the Nevada desert.

The federal agency asked for flush toilets, washers and dryers, hot water, air conditioning, vanity mirrors, refrigerators and couches at its on-site camp, called the Blue Pit, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported (http://on.rgj.com/1GxU4Bb) Friday. The toilets are also to be cleaned daily by Burning Man staff.

Festival leaders have refused the request, saying those amenities alone would cost $1 million and hike its permit fees to about $5 million. Burning Man holds the largest special-recreation permit in the country, but its cost has steadily increased in recent years. In 2011, the permit fees were $858,000.

“We want to work this out. We’re getting close to the event, but we feel that there are more common-sense and cost-effective solutions,” Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said.

But the Bureau of Land Management said state and federal officials will use the accommodations and that they’re needed for security. Staff was added after a fatal crash last year, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“It’s safe to say that if you were working 14 to 16 hours a day in white-out conditions on the hot playa, you don’t want them to be unrested. Safety, security and health are paramount. That, I will not forgo,” said Gene Seidlitz, the bureau’s Winnemucca District Manager.

It’s a preliminary proposal and a compromise is possible. But Seidlitz said Burning Man leaders hadn’t yet outlined their issues.

After the Reno Gazette-Journal’s report, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada weighed in with a letter to Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell. He called the requested accommodations unprecedented, extravagant and “outlandishly unnecessary.”

In other words, the BLM wants to build a vacation land for their people at the expense of the event organizer. In a few years they will get their congressman and senators to sneak this into the budget so permanent vacation facilities will be build for them. BLM employees will be planning their family vacations around working Burning Man.

In the last few decades, America has seen the government class become self-aware. Spend any time around DC and what jumps out is the mass of government contractors. These business often do nothing more than provide services to government employees. The extravagant pay and benefits has made the region around the Imperial Capital one of the most expensive areas on earth.

What’s clear is the game now is to loot as much from the dwindling middle-class as possible. The government class is one group doing the looting. In theory government is supposed to guard against monied interests looting the country. Instead they are one of the looters.

4 thoughts on “Burning Man

  1. It is telling that increasingly (certainly here in the UK) that people need licences to do what they have always done for free, other than the normal risk factor.

    I was astonished (well, a little) to discover the other day that licences must be sought by fishermen for going out into the wild seas to get a catch. Of course, a lot of this licence fee goes to the well-paid people who issue them, so it is a self-satisfying circle of bureaucracy.

    Foreign trawlers can either get the licence or ignore them and thus fish the seas to emptiness because it is hard to catch up with them. For the trawler men of Aberdeen or Scarborough or Welsh Wales, getting away from the baleful eye of the licence-gatherer is way tougher.

    • I read once that the UK has regulations on pallbearers. If the weight exceeds a certain amount, it is against the law to carry the deceased to the grave or out of the church. I guess if every aspect of your life is overseen by the custodial state, then you death may as well be regulated as well.

  2. As for the lower level employees, I suspect that it does not startle people much when they learn of or experience for themselves a Madame Mao impression from agents of OSHA or EPA (I had an out of body experience with an OSHA agent), but there may as many of them in BLM and Fish and Wildlife now, which at one time surprised me.

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