Saturday, December 17, 2016

On Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Anthony Weiner

Yesterday, Borepatch did a piece on the Bureaucrats of the DOE vs. the Trump administration; in the larger sense, this is 18th century society vs. 21st century society.   What?  I get a laugh when I hear the term "progressive" for socialists and communists, as if handing more and more control over to a bigger and bigger government headed by a powerful central ruler is somehow a new idea, somehow moving to an ideal future.  That's the complete opposite of progress.  The Romans did that two thousand years ago and they weren't the first.  Same idea, different technology.  There's nothing futuristic about a centralized government controlling as much as they can and stealing everything that's not nailed down in the process.  The Romans did that, too.

The truly progressive system, is the free market, which spreads power over all consumers.  It adds self-correcting mechanisms that continually make things better - if it's left alone.  The removal of control by an elite few is the only really revolutionary change in governments in history.  Progressive government is a five thousand year old idea that gets disproved over and over and over. 

The money quote in Borepatch's piece is from Willis Eschenbach at Watts Up With That:
If you want to take over a bureaucracy, the key thing to know is that a single bureaucrat all alone is almost always a weak, pitiful creature for a simple reason.

He/she finds it very, very difficult to make a decision on his/her own.
And that's an undeniable truth of the universe and the human condition.  A bureaucrat's ideal condition would be to be invisible but still have power over us; to be able to wreak havoc on the lives of little people without being seen.  They must be in a job where they feel safe to bully people with no chance of being blamed.   

By contrast, the career politician may not necessarily be averse to making decisions.  They'll make a decision as long as it seems really safe and they have ample excuses for unpopular decisions but while the bureaucrat may want to be invisible, the career politician is more like Anthony Wiener.  He doesn't just want you to see him, he's going to force himself onto you and force you to look at it, no matter how much you don't want to.  The career politician is more like a perverted exhibitionist than they are like a bureaucrat. 

Unfortunately, it gets worse from here.  I often ponder how our society got where we are.  The glib answer is because we weren't hard enough on them, but I think there's a deeper view; there's something else under the surface.  Let's start here:  do you really enjoy politics?  I mean the day to day horse race, as they say.  The endless media coverage of "who said what"; did the Rs score some points over the Ds for something?  Did some big name D say something so remarkably stupid that media talks about for days?   I maintain that for most people, politics isn't something they enjoy.  They have a life, they have their kids to worry about, their careers to grow, the constant worries about job security.  Simply put: they have a life.

I think what's really the answer to how we got here has a lot to do with two things: because voters have a life and voters learned (or used to learn) that we elected the best people we could find to do that job for us, that the voters then left them alone to do their jobs.  And they left them alone because they have a life and can't constantly be monitoring the politicians.  But the politicians are all much more like Anthony Wiener than Winston Churchill (in about a million ways), and they kept doing things to make us look at them.  The career politician is incapable of going through life without attention; without being talked about all the time.   Once they realized they were being left alone to do their jobs, they skimmed money in any amount they could, from the limited graft of a local office to the unlimited insider trading that goes on in DC.  The kind of corruption that makes a douchebag like Harry Reid worth $10 Million on a salary of $193,400 per year (actually, that's only now, at his peak earning level).  Eventually, that proved to be "only money" and that inner exhibitionist that simply must be paid attention to did things to demand attention. 
Obviously, there's more to this story.  There are politicians who don't crave the attention so much as the money they can steal.  There are some so devoted to their progressive anti-progress ideas that they will do everything they can to "steal, kill and destroy".   Only some of the politicians are literally attention whores that have to be seen and paid attention to.  Between the attention whore politicians and their bureaucrat lackeys that want to be invisible, they create a lot of trouble. 
(One of my favorite pictures from the early days of this blog:  Harry Reid and a blobfish: separated at birth?  Reid's the one with the glasses.  Ethically, I'd feel better around the blobfish.  The blobfish didn't take $10 Million in kickbacks or bribes.)


  1. Britain did a documentary series for TV which demonstrates how little the permanent bureaucracy changes when the officeholder changes. I don't expect a different result for Trump vs. EPA.

  2. One more time: Senior Executive Service. Look it up. I'm damned tired of posting how it works. If Trump WANTS to make them change, he can easily do so. The GD Shrub swill had NO intention of doing so.

  3. The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks of the next election, a statesman of the next generation.

    Today, we have people in office that barely warrant the term "politician". Oligarch is a better term for them.

    Phil B

  4. My advice to Trump would be to act boldly. I would ask every federal administrator and every administrative level in every federal organization to give me the list of their least productive employees with the intent of firing 10% of the federal workforce. A month later do it again. Repeat as necessary until we cut the federal workforce by 50%. Some/many departments should be eliminated. The Dept of Ed is a good candidate. I would investigate the EPA. I suspect it has been a hive of crony and illegal activity by far left activists appointed to it by Obama. I would follow that up with a special prosecutor to identify and prosecute any criminal activity. Go back to zero based budgeting. Replace welfare (all of the 1000's or programs) with a single program called Workfare. It would provide 40 hours a week of work to anyone who needs it paid at minimum wage and with payroll taxes and income taxes paid. Transfer this program to the states, the federal government has no constitutional authority.

  5. In terms of draining the swamp, particularly reducing headcount, thinking in terms of low-hanging fruit there are a large number of consultants that aren't protected by job-for-life protection. Start cutting there. It might even improve the attitude of the JFLers. Go after the JFL edict after showing some immediate gains. I've not researched the issue, but it might be as simple as reversing an Executive Order.

    73, Jim

  6. A successful society has lots of surplus money. Whenever there is a pile of money there will be thieves to harvest that money. They experience the joy of getting money without having to work for it. They also in time experience the joy of exercising power. Others see this and join in, and eventually the old virtues (that created the excess wealth in the first place) are dropped by most and we end up with Bastiat's "everybody lives at the expense of everybody else".

    The problem for the peons is, how is wealth created without parasites to harvest it?