John Singleton with Bob HowardRip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 23-27, under the heading “The Bureaucracy”.

The Lord’s Prayer has 56 words. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has 266. The Ten Commandments have 297. The famous U.S. Declaration of Independence has 300. But a recent Price Control order in the United States concerning cabbages contained 26,911 words.

Imagine you are living on a desert island with three other people. For all of you to survive there are certain things you have to do, certain needs you have to satisfy. You need food, shelter and, perhaps, clothing. You need to arrange for some services — water, sanitation and rubbish disposal, for example. All the usual things.

Assuming you are all fit and healthy, you would split the work up between you, making use of any special talent or skills that each of you might have. There would be hunting, fishing, farming, foraging, building and cleaning to be done. You would trade between yourselves. But, no matter which bit each did, all of you would in some way contribute directly through your own efforts, to your own physical survival and material wellbeing.

Imagine now that a fifth person is introduced into your group. This person does not become involved in any of the work you have been doing. His function is different. He is there to promote “the public welfare” — he is your first public “servant”. And a busy, ambitious and conscientious fellow he is. He inspects your sanitary, living and garbage disposal arrangements, and if they are satisfactory, gives you a certificate to prove it. He inspects your structures. He organises your working conditions and specifies hours. He lays down rules for hunting, fishing and farming. He sets aside various areas of the island “for the future” and forbids you to use them. He regulates your trading activities. He stipulates that in the future if you want to embark on any new activity — build a boat, construct new homes, start new farming or manufacturing enterprises, knock down trees and clear land, or even simply change or improve those things you already have — you have to first see him, tell him what you want to do, and convince him that he should give you a permit to go ahead and do it. These are some of the things that this new person introduces into your life to make things better for you.

Of course, because he’s so busy managing all this, he doesn’t have time to build his own house, or provide his own food and clothing, so for his services he charges you fees. Henceforth, one fifth of what you produce, or one fifth of your time, you must give over to providing for his needs. This allows him to continue to provide his services. He is a bureaucrat, and this crude situation is in too many way analogous to what is happening in Australia today.

One person in five in our workforce (approaching one in four) works for the State. By and large, their functions are not productive, but regulatory. Where they do attempt to be productive, the results are nothing to get enthusiastic about — the Post Office, Telecom, the Public Transport Commission, and so on. The bureaucracy is a gigantic Wettex soaking up human energy, ideas, wealth, initiative, creativity and time.

Think of the waste that occurs every day because of it. Take time alone — time spent making applications, supplying statistics, filling out forms, gaining permissions, qualifying for licenses, satisfying conditions, standards and whims, or, simply waiting — waiting in queues, waiting on form processing, permission granting, law changes, inter-departmental hassles, or the mail.

If only the first public servant to arrive on the island had been fed to the sharks, how much better off we all would be.

As Herbert Spencer said (last century), when State power is applied to social purposes, its action is invariably “slow, stupid, extravagant, unadaptive, corrupt and obstructive.” It shows a positive genius for making any human activity as complicated and as difficult as possible.

If we go back to our original desert island example again, there are two further very important points to be made:


The fifth person, the bureaucrat, does not depend directly on the results of his work for his survival. Ultimately, all five people depend on the skills and success of the first four in their work of hunting, fishing, farming or foraging. Survival imposes very strict limitations on the activities of these four people. They have to produce at least enough to cover their needs, and if they are to grow and progress, a little extra to cover that growth — in other words, they need to make a profit. If they have a crop failure, or a bad hunting or fishing trip, they feel the results directly. The bureaucrat, however, as far as his own work is concerned, is removed from that. His “work” only influences his income indirectly. Because he lives off the work of the others, he could go and lie in the sun all day and do very nicely. Maybe/if/perhaps (once every ten years) his work could resolve a conflict that has arisen between the four, and thus allow them to work more efficiently, which would in turn improve his own welfare. The rest of the time his “work” would only complicate and retard the activity of the others, thus having a detrimental effect on the welfare of them all.

But — and this is the main point — because his material welfare is only indirectly affected by the results of his work, he does not have the same incentive or profit motive that the others have. He does have the power to sap the incentive from everyone else, and this gets worse as the society becomes more complex.

In a modern business, decisions are made ultimately in the light of business survival. Anything business does, it does after doing some sums to assure itself that it is in fact going to be profitable: for example, hiring new staff, extending offices, purchasing plant. All these have to be justified on the grounds of profit (and although this mainly boils down to dollars and cents, it doesn’t always do so. Longterm survival must also take into account public opinion and industrial relations — two things businessmen ignored in the past, for which they are now paying the penalty).

Modern bureaucracies, on the other hand, trade in a different currency. They trade in privilege, power, influence, status, votes, and, a distant last in most cases, public service. This is so, and can only be so, because they do not directly depend on the results of their labour for their survival. Bureaucracies are, in a sense, a luxury that our society affords (with increasing difficulty). They are, in the true sense of the word, parasites. They hinder and feed off the productive efforts of others.


Because of the impositions imposed on them by the activity of the fifth person, the attention of the original four on the island is increasingly drawn to him. He comes to play a more important part in their daily activity as regulatory activity increases.

After a while, one of the four (at least) will suddenly discover something. He will see opportunity: he will become political. It will occur to him that if he gets on the right side of the public servant, he will be able to get the public servant to organise his regulations so as to secure advantages for them both at the expense of the other three. As an example, he may get the public servant to decree that henceforth only he should be allowed to fish (he could perhaps justify it by saying it was to prevent the possibility of dog-eat-dog destructive competition). Having by this means secured a coercive monopoly on fishing, he could then start to demand inequitable terms of trade with the other three people. Should there be a crop failure, or a bad hunting season, he would be in a position to really exploit his situation.

As a reaction and in self-defence, the other three people would turn their attention to the public servant and seek similar privileges in their own areas of speciality, and also seek ways and means of breaking down the fishing monopoly — perhaps by offering the public servant a better deal. Perhaps even a bribe. It has been known to happen.

The situation quickly evolves into one where the public servant functions as a privilege broker. Thus power, influence, status (and later, votes) come into being as his currency, to purchase privilege, and with “public service” usually serving as little more than the shallow rationalisation to justify his manoeuvres.

There are two way to gain wealth. One is the economic means; that is, to work for, and produce wealth. The other is called the political means; that is to peddle favours so as to have wealth expropriated and given to you. Politics then becomes the struggle for control of this political means, with the State existing as the organisation of the political means. Like organised crime. Only legal.

It should be easy to generalise from the simple island example to our present economy. The State, with its bureaucracy, serves more than ever as a broker in privilege, with all the special interests: the big companies, the mining lobby, the many welfare lobbies, the secondary industry lobbies, the primary industry lobbies, the teachers and students, women’s lobbies, Aborigines’ lobbies, anti-porn lobbies, church lobbies, etc., etc. — vigorously jostling one another for a position at the public trough.

Politicians and public servants have for many years fed on this activity, with the result that over one and a quarter million people are now employed to keep the seats warm and shuffle all the paper backwards and forwards. It’s a vicious and evil process, dishonest and fraudulent in the extreme, and totally cynical in its use of high sounding rhetoric to justify what is little more than common thuggery. Next time you write to someone in the bureaucracy, just to let him know which side you are on, do two things:

First, don’t put a stamp on your letter — let them pay it, particularly if it’s your tax return.

Second, sign your letter:

You remain, sir,
My Humble Servant
Sincerely …

Or better still, just refuse to write at all.

(in order of appearance on
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5