American Bureaucracy and Special Interests: Destroying Our Republic
In today’s America, it is extremely difficult to ferret out any political virtues in our bureaucracies, from the local to the county to the State and Federal levels.
According to Richard Swedberg and Ola Agevall in their book The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts (Swedberg, R. & Agevall, O., 2005), Max Weber, a German sociologist, maintained many things about a bureaucracy that have turned true. One that did not remain true was that it eliminated favoritism.
When it comes to ideological and political positions on the individual level, favoritism is inevitable. While many, like Weber, viewed the hierarchical structure of bureaucracies to be a strength for control of maintaining proper functionality, it can be argued one aspect of human behavior has been overlooked. People in power tend to collect around them underlings who are like minded and then train them to operate within that sphere of like-mindedness. Thusly, there are the alleged scandals of Lois Lerner with the Internal Revenue Service, James Comey within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Rod Rosenstein within the Department of Justice. There are many more examples, but these are the most recent and ongoing issues inside the respective bureaucracies.
Favoritism has many tentacles of ideology. There is Party ideology, political interest ideology, societal ideology, and religious ideology to name a few. Favoritism filters into world views of capitalism, socialism and communism. For those in the mid to upper tier of the bureaucratic hierarchy, it is incumbent to find and maintain people one can ‘trust’ and who share the views of their superiors. Yet, Terry Moe admits the legislators have a vested interest in exercising control over the bureaucracy (Kernell, S. & Smith, S. (Eds). 2019. p. 225), for this allows them to gain special interest groups’ dependence on them. He goes on to write about the executive office, and how presidents are thrust into the inner workings of the different bureaucratic departments and expected to direct them to perform at a high level (Kernell, S. et al (Eds.). 2019. p. 226). This destroys the idea that bureaucracies are independent or free from political threat or turmoil. Terry Moe, writes, “Any notion that political actors might confine their attention to policymaking and turn organizational design over to neutral criteria or efficiency experts denies the realities of politics” (p. 220). Depending on administration changes, upper tier power fluctuations, new committee members and/or presidential turnovers, bureaucrats face many threats to their careers as well as to their own personal reputation (p. 227). In these instances, Moe writes of the bureaucrats, “They must take action to reduce their political uncertainty” (Kernell, S. et al (Eds.). 2019. p. 227). Such action includes networking at every level, deal making and growing the agency’s support base (p. 227). These actions all involve developing a pattern of favoritism, on several scales, to enhance an agency’s ability to counteract intrusion by elected officials.
Political virtues of bureaucracies are as fleeting as military secrets. By the aforementioned favoritism, agencies build a hedge of protection around them so their mandates and policies can safely remain in effect. What one executive administration and legislative Party in power might consider a virtuous bureaucracy, another might consider a corrupt one. President Obama arguably enjoyed a federal bureaucracy which embraced his administration and acted on his behalf with an almost worshipful obedience. On the other side, President Trump experienced an almost rabid resistance to almost anything he attempted to accomplish.
The favoritism of America’s political engineers toward the bureaucracy is what has developed the financial, and thus, political power of modern-day interest groups. The question Americans need to ask is, “Are these interest groups helpful or harmful to the republic?”
Interest groups, such as James Madison envisioned, do not exist in the 21st century. Over the last several decades, interest groups grew not only in number, but to a level of sophistication that Madison could not have dreamed of in the late seventeen-hundreds. In the days of the founders, there were approximately three million people in America. Today, the number stands at near three-hundred thirty-million. It is almost impossible to count the number of special interest groups, or even the number of special interests who have not yet formed a group. In his ‘Brutus Essays’ of 1787, Robert Yates, an anti-federalist, wrote a warning of this impending dilemma where he said, “In a republic, the manners, sentiments and interests of the people should be similar. If this be not the case, there will be a constant clashing of opinions…” (Hammond, S., Hardwick, K., Lubert, H. (Eds.). 2019, p. 538).
The political powers in the United States, by their own governmental ineptitude and the major political parties constantly vying for ultimate power through their ever-compromising attempts to placate every voice to get every vote to their side, has produced a bevy of special interest groups that haunt the halls of congress for their piece of the budgetary and legislative pie. These groups focus on the empowerment of the interests they hold most dear, and this focus supersedes that of holding the interests of our whole country itself most dear. This has arguably produced a fractious society not intent on working together as Americans for the good of the whole, but rather a disjointed intent to promise the universe to the envious at the expense of societal solidarity. Therefore, it can be submitted the interest groups of today are harmful to the American republic, and the bureaucracies that feed them like a bloated pig begging for more, only exacerbate the obvious destruction of our Constitutional protections afforded to the individual, as well as to the public’s cohesiveness as one citizenry. To deny this is what is taking place in the United States of today, will only add haste to the end of our republic.
Swedberg, R. & Agevall, O. (2005). The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts. Stanford University Press. pp. 18–21.
Kernell, S. & Smith, S.S. (Eds.). (2019). Principles and Practice of American Politics (7th ed.). CQ Press.
Hammond, S.J., Hardwick, K. R. & Lubert, H.L. (Eds.). (2007). Classics of American Political & Constitutional Thought: Volume 1, Origins through the Civil War. Hackett Publishing Company.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mr. Robert Coward holds a B.A. in History and a M.A. in Government from Regent University, and is a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha National Honor Society in Political Science. He has held positions in the Oil & Gas industry from Project Management, Quality Management, consultancies, and Vice President of Operations, having traveled the world for over thirty years in this profession. Mr. Coward is a published author and an accomplished public speaker. He presently lives in Houston, Texas, and is available for speaking engagements on a range of subjects, including politics, government, management techniques and management principles, to name a few. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.