As an electrician, I have to deal with permits and inspections all the time, including the "does-this-job-require-a-permit?" debate. While it can be a pain, I stlll appreciate the process.
Whether done by pro or homeowner, the work the specialty trades do (electric, HVAC, plumbing, framing, etc.) can have dire costs when done improperly, in both human safety and potential loss-of-property.
The permit process can save countless hours and dollars by catching errors in the planning stage, in both methods and materials, before the work is done and, perhaps, redone (a real pain!).
The point is that, while the professional is legally responsible for his work and consequences, the homeowner often has to be protected from himself. As in most areas, homeowners may do their own work.
The permit application is a revenue source, sure, but it also can stop dangerous work from even beginning. Plans can be a pain to produce, but they force one to plan out the details.
Around these parts, as in most areas, the permit fee includes the inspection costs. No permit, no inspection, no chance to stop shoddy and potentially dangerous work, and no legal recourse.
On more than one occasion, I've stopped someone from burning down their own, or a friend's or relative's house. A recent one was a guy who was going to run a range circuit using #12 (because it's cheaper than #6).
It's true that inspectors often assume the pro will do work the amateur might overlook. It's not unfair, it's reasonable. How many homeowners know about, say, box fill, or grounding requirements, or . . .
I've had an inspector look at a breaker panel I made up, and passed the entire house, even before he knew I was licensed (my ex father-in-law's gutted and rebuilt house - he pulled the permits)
I've also had inspectors check every single box for everything, actually measure cable stapling spacing, etc., even after knowing I was licensed. There's no one rule (so to speak), and every inspector has his own way.
For the most part, I'm on a first-name basis with almost half of the inspectors in my area, as well as the two main head inspectors (city and county). They'll check a few main things, like grounding, etc., but they know my work.
Overall, I like the process more than I hate it, because either the homeowner has to be protected from himself, or he has to be protected from the professional. In either case, it's nothing personal (unless you piss him off!)
Oh, one other thing; it's not workmanship (in the asthetic sense) that the inspector cares about, it's the safety factor. It's up to the customer to insist that fit and finish be done to his standards. Be assertive; it's your money!