A History of Government Employment, Part I


The first 30,000 years, or so.

Remember that great opening scene from Kubrick’s “2001, a Space Odyssey” where the apes-about-to-become-hominids have just been run off from the waterhole? They’re picking around in a bone pile when Thag (the hero), purely by accident, discovers that the jawbone of an ass can be a fair-to-middling skull breaker and starts taking down red meat on the hoof instead of fighting buzzards over who gets the sabertooth’s leftovers.

To make a really, really long story short, the rest of Thag’s troop, seeing him chow down on fresh, raw sirloin every night, thought (in Thagese, a redneck dialect of australopithecene) “L I B” (Tennessee transl: Well, I be.) and tagged along behind Thag from then on.

Thag just became the world’s first chief by acclamation. And probably the last, for the next 29,750 years. For shortly thereafter, Thag and his troop returned to the ol’ watering hole, all of them waving zebra femurs high over their heads, (with switch-clavicles in their hip pockets), and ran off the unarmed monkey-thugs who had taken over the waterhole at the beginning of the film.

“Territory” had just been invented.

Chief + Troop + Weapons = Territory = Government + Troops + Weapons = etc., etc.

Government as we know it would come much later. But for now we need to consider those suddenly-upright apes that watched Thag kill a sloth, then pick up a bone and follow behind him to help retrieve the waterhole…

…they were history’s first government employees.

Yep, so’jurs. (Hence the name, troops.)

What you need to know here is that government employees predate government by thousands of years. Government employment is the world’s oldest profession, having been drawing paychecks from chiefs long before humans even began mating face-to-face, or bothering to smile, which is what really precipitated the world’s second oldest profession in the first place, around 1921 BC, at 2 AM, January 3rd, in a haw mow behind Menecelem’s Bar in Ashrath, Mesopotamia (if Bishop Ussher is right).

The next 29,000 years. (OK, I’ve compressed 2.6 million years for dramatic effect.)

Early, early on, the first guy to set up a government was called a tribal chief or clan leader. Later they became kings, then, bowing to some changes that occurred here in America, (which I’ll get to in Part II), president. As the Frenchman La Rochefoucauld said, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”

There’s a transitory lesson here, since 27,000 years later these were still the same kinds of people Caesar fought in Gaul, when “virtue” was a still a relatively new word in the Greco-Roman Dictionary, and only perhaps a little longer in a regional Hebraic Dictionary. See the advantage “barbarism” has over “civilization”?

This explains the difference between “evolving” and “becoming civilized” for people of Caesar’s time…Goths, Visogoths, Gauls, etc, were smarter, better dressed, and had domesticated horses, but while some argue they were more civilized, I lean more toward the Darwinian explanation that they had simply evolved….and they had evolved primarily due to a transmission of culture that had been broadcast all over their world from one or two single sources, Mesopotamia-Greece-Rome and China, where notions such as virtue were relatively new. Physical culture always precedes moral culture, sometimes by millennia.

As I said, “virtue” came much later.

So when you go into DMV and the clerk calls your number, and she looks at you as if you were a gnat about to light on her arm, remember (with all the Christian charity you can muster), her class of government employee practiced this aspect of customer service for thousands of years before the word “nice” had even been invented.

From that old watering hole in pre-historic Gondwana to the time of Christ, things really never changed all that much for the government employee.  Those early troops of hominids soon found survival was best achieved when they bunched up together, living in whatever sized-groups the food source would allow. Territory. And this community living required rules (first called customs and mores, much later, law)…government…which, at the end of the day, still required a big stick with a point on the end of it, first of stone, then bronze, to make sure everyone lived by the rules, or be expelled. Who made those rules were chiefs and who enforced those rules and wielded those sharp sticks were government employees.

It would figure that government employees would evolve as their chiefs and kings evolved. The first government employees were the chief’s soldiers as just described, and how he got to be chief, prince, king, was always pretty much the same way, by intelligence (or by being first) and by the brute force of that fact. Luck helped.

Chiefs come and go, sometimes for only a day, sometimes for a year, sometimes for a dynasty, for you see, government employees, especially the ones with long pointy sticks, were often jealous that the chief always got a bigger piece of venison, and they would often try to kill him for it. (Gratitude, like virtue came much later from the same source.)  For the most part, most chiefs were always looking over their shoulders, sleeping with one eye open, and with a knife under the pillow.

So being chief was always a crap shoot, but being a government employee was easy, just so long as you didn’t try to rock the boat and kill the chief.

In any case, government grew despite these constant changes at the top. And once a chief took on territory he had to take on grooms to care for his horses, and others to set up his tent. Staff. They were also government employees, only without swords. 1500 years later the French would still never let a government employee ride a horse into battle, calling them “infantry” instead. They even lost battles because of this refusal to dismount and fight alongside their hourly-wage employees. While forever proud of their nobility anyway, as stupid as it was, this is where the earliest Labor- Management issues would be formed.

In later years the chiefs built castles, so they had to hire “factors” to keep their books, since most of them could not cipher or read. It wasn’t noble.  Sort of like the original Saudi Royal House, etc, etc, etc.

What we know is that the size of government employment grows, both in volume and breadth, not only due to territory, but due to the appetites of the chiefs. Pick any century, pick any dynasty, e.g., Persia, China, Rome, England or Cibola, working for the king, chief, government was the ssswwweeetttest job in the empire. In ages when life expectancy reached all of 25-30, it provided real security; a roof over one’s head, three squares a day, more or less, lots of people to order around “Pay your taxes or else…”,  kick around, “Step aside, make way for the Prince…” and even persecute, “Juden raus!”

The Ancient Math of Government Employment

So, consider the math…for literally thousands of years, 30,000 BC to circa A D 1776, 99% of all the wealth of any territory was owned, not controlled, but owned, by 2%-3% of the people, and their government employees ran that number way up to almost 8%-10%. Insiders, all. Ah, to be inside, is an ancient dream, indeed. And from records we have an idea of what it cost a king to keep a palace guard, a household staff, and bureaucrats and tax collectors. Roughly 20%.

This means for 29, 750 years government employees were 20% shareholders in 99% of the world’s wealth. Forget what a dram of ale or a pound of rice cost in 29 BC, that’s a helluva stake by any measure.

What we should know then is that from the beginning of time government employees have been part of the ruling class and loving every minute of it. It is their natural habitat. Their come-to-momma habitat.

So don’t buy this poor old under-appreciated, underpaid, over-worked crap. Government employment has been the sweetest gig throughout history, yes, even more than the chiefs, for most government employees could always go to bed at night without a knife under their pillows.

The ruling class is their rice bowl…and they do not like competition.

And there’s the rub, for that competition came in 1776, which provided the other 90% of the world’s population a way out of this 30 millennia Ponzi scheme. That’ when things got out of hand, as I’ll explain in Part II.

Let’s be more serious now.

You already know this is a lead into Parts II, III, etc, about what to do about our government employee problem in the US, and what has now become  criminal, unpunished criminal activity by government employees in Wisconsin, Washington and America in general.

There is an answer to this, as we shall see.

I’m just trying to get you in the right frame of mind with a little context.




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April 7, 2011 4:30 pm

Vassar, you are common, crude, vulgar….wise, profound and delightful. Somehow I get a feeling you are setting us up for……….Hope and Change. 🙂

April 7, 2011 11:28 pm


I feel like I’ve just placed a hard earned nickel into that new fangled contraption called a Kinetoscope. Watching the march of history and oh my goodness even the act of government illicit relations and the sly transfer of money for services rendered.