Jon Jarvis, Gute Amerikaner

On the principle of "know your enemy," here's a snapshot of the director of the National Park Service, the man who has been handing on the orders to block aged veterans from their monuments, eject retired couples from their homes, and forbid tourists to take photos of natural parks (hat tip: Clarice Feldman).

Jonathan B. Jarvis was appointed director of the NPS in 2009. He was employed by the service since 1976, beginning as an interpreter in the Washington, DC park system. He then served as a park ranger, resource manager, biologist, and chief ranger at parks including Prince William Forest Park in Virginia, Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, and Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and North Cascades National Park in Washington. He acted as superintendant at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and Mount Rainier National Park. In 2002 he was named Regional Director of the Pacific West Region, overseeing parks scattered across tens of thousands of miles in the Pacific.

That's it for Jonathan Jarvis. Nothing out of the ordinary -- no scandals, no controversies, not a word out of place, as far as the record shows. He's a little compulsive about green topics, thinking that his major duties involve "...climate change, urban development, habitat destruction, non-native species, and air and water pollution." But that's nothing unusual in today's NPS.

He's not your typical Obamacrat. Far from it: a career National Parks employee who worked his way up from ranger status straight to the top. Yet at the same time he is diligently and obediently, without protest as far as we know, carrying out the most obnoxious, detestable, and perhaps even illegal orders ever given a man in his position, exactly as if he was a swag-bellied, unqualified precinct captain dragged out of some Southside Chicago ward.

But that's the way it is with career bureaucrats -- like Lois Lerner, John Brennan, Keith Alexander and ten thousand others. We know from the historical record that bureaucrats will avidly commit the most horrendous crimes if ordered by the people at the top of the heap. There's a clear and distinct selection process in operation in bureaucracy. People who progress are those who will do what they're told without blinking. and Jarvis is perfect example.

Years ago, the anthropologist Robin Fox wrote a seminal yet too-little-known paper "Why Bureaucracy Fails" demonstrating that bureaucracy is fundamentally unhuman -- the principles that it is based on are alien to normal human activity. Humans operate according to the rules of family, group, and tribe, through processes of kinship, friendship, and patriotism. Bureaucracy pushes all that aside in favor of dealing with the undifferentiated mass according to a set of inflexible rules. Such a system operates as a seedbed for irrationality. This is how we get situations like Mohammed Atta receiving his visa four months after bringing down the WTC (or, for that matter, getting on the plane in the first place -- the ticket taker at Portland saw clearly that there was something wrong, but hey -- there was nothing in the handbook...)

The same process is in effect with the Shutdown. Inhuman responses such as those meted out to the vets are simply business as usual. That the face of this process should be that of the avuncular, pleasant Jon Jarvis is something that should give us all pause.

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