According to Wikipedia,
"Red tape" is a term for excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making. It is usually applied to governments, corporations and other large organizations.
The origins of the term are somewhat obscure, but it is first noted in historical records in the 16th century, when Henry VIII besieged Pope Clement VII with around eighty or so petitions for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Each one sealed and bound with the obligatory red tape, as was the custom.
The tradition continued through to the 17th and 18th century. Although Charles Dickens is believed to have used the phrase before Thomas Carlyle, the English practice of binding documents and official papers with red tape…
It seems as if all too many times approval after approval is needed to do the simplest things, or what you consider to be the simplest of things. For example if you are setting up a business in Norristown there are certain things that are needed. If you talk to some people you get the impression there is a lot of red tape to navigate, but if you talk to those in charge one to get the other side of the story, you are told that the people who complain the loudest are the ones who are trying to cut corners. If you are trying to cut corners you will experience problems. If you follow the steps you won’t. I suppose that’s about right sometimes. When you think about why steps to a procedure exist and you find out why those steps are there, you can generally understand why things have to be done a particular way.
But finding out those whys and wherefores are not easy and generally a clerk at an office will not tell you why because they don’t know. All they know is that it is done this way and that’s that. Getting to that person who made the decision could be more of a problem than just following the rules, so sometimes it is best to bite the bullet and do what you are asked to do. It is a lesson in patience.