In "The Road to Serfdom," Friedrich Hayek noted that "the power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionnaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work."RTWFT.
And how. But what makes the phenomenon so insidious is that many of the functionaries are as friendly as can be. It's just that they're cogs in a machine whose overriding purpose is not service but self-perpetuation and control.
It is, as Alexis de Tocqueville saw, a recipe for a form of despotism peculiar to modern democracies. It does this, wrote Tocqueville, by enforcing "a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules" that reduces citizens "to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd." The sobering thought is that we're all complicit in that infantilization. After all, we keep voting for the politicians who put this leviathan in place.
I would say "unbelievable," but it is, in fact, all too believable.