Beck’s observations are striking because they were written before the New Deal, before Social Security, before Medicare, Medicaid, government health care, and before a 15 trillion dollar national debt.
The one hundred and fifty bureaus now existing almost cover the life of man from his cradle to the grave. Happily the final exit of the citizen from this mortal life gives the author his illustration for--as far as we know--there is as yet no morticians’ bureau in any Federal department. How this escaped the attention of the Bureaucracy is a mystery. It seems so obvious that if the Federal government must supervise the manner of birth, the conduct of life and the maintenance of health, it should also give its paternal care to the final exit of the over-governed citizen…
The bureau will begin its mortuary activities in this fashion: Some ambitious, but none too busy mortician, will feel that his ancient and honorable profession has been neglected. Perhaps he will have aided some Congressman or Senator in the final rites of a relative and gained his good will by his professional sympathy. He will suggest to the Congressman or Senator the inexcusable omission of the Federal Government to guide the citizen in his final exit to the grave. The Congressman--possibly a member of the all powerful Committee on Appropriations--will insert a modest item in the next Deficiency Bill for an appropriation of $25,000 to study the subject of sanitary internments. While the ordinary rule of the Government is to appoint to the head of each department and bureau some one, who knows little or nothing of its work, yet gratitude for the opportunity to create a new bureau will secure for the mortician the appointment. The bureau begins by the mortician--now called the United States Chief Mortician--appointing a first and second assistant Chief Morticians and a secretary for each of these exalted functionaries, and at least three stenographers and a messenger.
The problem now is to justify the creation of the Bureau. This requires considerable ingenuity. A scientist is selected to study the process of putrefacation and a half dozen historians are dispatched to foreign lands to make a study of Egyptian embalming, the Etruscan methods of burial and the Roman methods of cremation. The possibility of such mortuary inquiries gradually widens and soon a series of monographs are issued by the Public Printer, and find their grave in the office of the Superintendent of Documents. Then a scientist is employed to study the kinds of wood that may be used in the construction of coffins, and the best stone for use in cemeteries.
Fearful that the States are incompetent to control the methods of burial, the Bureau, now costing $200,000 a year, procures federal aid subsidies, whereby each State receives a grant of money, if it will match it in amount, and subjects its domestic laws to the Federal Mortuary Bureau.
Then the Chief Mortician--swollen with the pride of office--employs the radio for a twenty-minute nation-wide broadcast, in which after some orchestral music and a song…the Chief Mortician in the dulcet tones of the best “Bed Time Story Teller” implores the people of the United States to enlist in the great crusade, whose slogan is:
“More and better funerals,”
“If eventually, why not now?”
Beck goes on to mention various bureaus which disseminate useless information and cost the American taxpayers very much. He recommended that the tax burden be distributed more evenly, to make Americans “tax-conscious.” “Less than 400,000 citizens paid in 1928, 97% of the federal income tax. Why should the remaining 120,000,000 care?” he asks. Unless we stop increasing our expenditures, Beck warned, we will increasingly become socialistic.