The searing Russian novel Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman is one of the greatest examinations of totalitarianism ever written. Based on his experiences under Stalin, Grossman depicts how humanity withers under tyranny. Grossman’s book is not a dystopian novel, yet few books better teach how force is used to control a population by not only restricting liberty but also exploiting weaknesses in human nature.
Along a flank of the Stalingrad front, two colonels talk about the terrible impact of bureaucrats and bureaucracy. One colonel tells this story:
There was an infantry detachment that had been surrounded. The men had nothing to eat. A squadron was ordered to drop them some food by parachute. And then the quartermaster refused to issue the food. He said he needed a signature on the delivery slip and how could the men down below sign for what had been dropped by parachute? And he wouldn’t budge. Finally he received an order from above.