We've all heard about them: Lazy, incompetent, always passing the buck
, and more than willing to accept a bribe to "speed things up". This character type exists somewhere in the overlap between Punch Clock Villains
and Obstructive Bureaucrats
. They are only lazy and incompetent when it prevents them
from getting any work done, however. If someone threatens their position or privileges, they forget about laziness and incompetence and become relentless in abusing their power. They are not above committing murder itself, of crossing the Moral Event Horizon
, if their cushy jobs are at risk or they have the object of their ambition within reach.
This type of villain usually does not belong to the aristocracy
or get power from money or businesses
. Instead, the power comes from a position on the government (usually obtained through personal favors rather than merits or hard work). Compare Dirty Cop
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Anime and Manga
- Yoki from Fullmetal Alchemist was a corrupt State Military official in charge of a mining town who horrendously taxed and oppressed the inhabitants before being stopped by the Elric brothers.
- Beautifully averted in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. At one point, the Galactic Empire has essentially conquered the Free Planets Alliance but has granted it a degree of autonomy. When imperial officers attempt to get anything done, mid-level Alliance bureaucrats block progress by faithfully sticking to rules and regulations rather than caving to pressure. Reinhard commends them for this, openly wondering if the Alliance would be a different place had they been in positions of greater influence and power.
- Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House in D.C. One from New Jersey , another from Tennessee and the third, Florida . They go with a White House official to examine the fence. The Florida contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well", he says, "I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me." The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me." The New Jersey contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$2,700"The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?" The New Jersey contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence." "Done!", replies the government official.
- An old joke from Germany: Two civil servants encounter each other in a ministry corridor. One asks the other, "So you also have trouble sleeping?"
- Star Wars Expanded Universe: Feltipern Trevagg created new tariffs to line his own pockets, including on the water — on a kriffing desert planet. The barve ends up dead with delicious irony.
- In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, running an honest administration causes a revolt because they expect favors, too. (They do insist on your doing the job you accepted a bribe for, though.)
- Likewise in Up Jim River, a man offers an official a large demonination bill — asking his opinion of the engraving.
- Cornelius Fudge from Harry Potter is not above taking bribes from Lucius Malfoy.
- The town master of Laketown in The Hobbit.
- In Iron Sunrise, Madam Chairman initially appears to be a Smug Snake Obstructive Bureaucrat with a pathological inability to believe Rachel isn't doing something wrong, somehow. She turns out to be part of the A Nazi by Any Other Name group Rachel's been fighting.
- Subverted in Sword of Truth. Nicci needs to raise a large sum of money to secure Richard's release from the dungeons, which she believes will line the pockets of the bureaucrat in charge of these matters. It turns out that he's honest after all.
- A Song of Ice and Fire goes out on a limb to show you that, even with the sword, horses and siege engines... a medieval-based aristocracy is basically this with titles and bloodshed alongside the paperwork, wax-seals and under-the-table deals. Greasing palms, favours given and received, marriages to seal deals, promissory notes instead of here-and-now taxation (with a cut for you for your trouble) — it all greases the wheels and gets things kind of done. As long as everybody knows the tune and can at least look like they're dancing along. But, some are more willing to use or abuse the system than others. Isn't that right, Houses Lannister, Tyrell, Bolton and Frey? Or Littlefinger and Varys, if you want less corporate entities willing to corrupt up the bureaucracy nicely. The problem is: when somebody reneges on their deals (or, is only inferred to have done)... it can get very, very violent well beyond a sternly worded letter delivered by black wings.
- The RPG game Paranoia regularly features encounters with these, freely mixed with every other flavor listed above.
- Many of the ministers of Jade Empire would certainly qualify, as they are lazy, always accepting bribes, and offering protection to slavers and criminal gangs.
- Ragou from Tales of Vesperia is a corrupt governor who kidnaps kids to feed them to the monsters in his basement for amusement. When he is detained after his mansion is destroyed, he escapes all punishment because the witnesses are the party, an ex-knight, an as-of-yet-unrevealed princess, an imperial mage, a Guild member (who are unprotected by imperial law in the Vesperia universe), and a dog while Ragou is on the highest court in the world. He is only stopped when the main character murders him in cold blood.
- Chancellor Kilkil from The Order of the Stick. Of course, this is mostly done on the order of General Tarquin.
- There are hints that most of the upper echelons of the Government in City Under The Hill aren't adverse to taking bribes, or are in contact with criminal elements.
- Senator Wheiner of Galaxy Rangers fits this trope like a glove. Despite the fact that the Series 5 Rangers are possibly the best weapon the League has against the Crown Empire, he is constantly trying to get it shut down. He's got a massive case of Fantastic Racism against aliens, even their Andorian and Kiwi allies on top of it. But his Moral Event Horizon was crossed well before the series when he was shown to be the politician in charge of the Supertrooper Project. He wanted to bypass the safeguards that Walsh and Nagata put into a project that was highly dangerous and morally questionable at best, declaring they needed soldiers with "no mercy" to fight any alien Earth encountered. He tops it off by releasing Psycho Serum into the barracks, causing the Supertroopers (save Shane) to become super-powerful and riot, killing Nagata in the process. It's also established that Wheiner and Walsh keep each other in check through massive amounts of mutual blackmail...and this was a Animated Series from The Eighties!
- The Animaniacs movie Wakko's Wish has Baron von Plotz, an avaricious tax collector who taxes the citizens of Acme Falls so heavily that the town suffers massive poverty and economic deflation. Moreover, it's strongly implied he takes the lion's share of the revenue for himself.
- Judge Hotah in Book 2 of The Legend of Korra.