One of my brothers worked for about twenty years down in the Amazon. While he certainly appreciated the place (after all, where can you go out and cut down your own mahogany and cedar trees and then mill them yourself?), he detested the culture of bribery that existed. Most encounters with the government tended to result in the bureaucrat du jour demanding their coin.

At least the Brazilians are honest about it.

Here in California, bribery is woven seamlessly into our laws and regulations. My job has me frequently interacting with various levels of government. Invariably, fees are required to do anything. Want to build something? That’ll be 32 different fees, including fees for archaeological studies, biological studies, seismic studies, noise studies, traffic studies. One wonders, with so many studies, why the various planning departments of California do not hand out college degrees with their permits?

Recently, I was required to pay several fees for a permit. Business as usual, of course. The galling thing, though, is that the money paid does not equate in any way to man-hours worked by some government Joe on my behalf. The money merely disappears, vanishing in the direction of Sacramento with a great raspberry noise that sounds suspiciously like someone yodeling "Sucker!"

Having visited my brother in the Amazon, I feel somewhat nostalgic for that jungle. There, at least, the snakes don’t pretend to be anything else. They bite you in complete honesty. In California, however…

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