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The Fiction of Disinterested Administrative Governments — 8 Comments

  1. I appreciate your additional comments to place us in historical context with the ancients – from which our Founders drew wisdom – as well as the examples from Soviet history – from which (alas) you would have hoped that we could have learned from their failures.

    One aspect of modern society that seems to drive the Progressives is the incessant justification for more centralization of power to deal with the complexity of our world today. No one would argue that we are not a highly complex society. They claim that the checks and balances of our constitution are part of the problem and not the solution because they get in the way of addressing issues expeditiously. This is a practical argument, not a philosophical one. What is the answer to that line of thinking that seems to ring so true to many people? It may be in your book, but remind us again! Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Alan, Some degree of centralization is required. You have to understand the principle of subsidiarity and the concept of “the greatest responsibility to the lowest level of governance.” For example, air quality is a concern to all human beings and there can conceivably be principles (e.g. international air quality standards) that nations are encouraged to uphold. However, a set of laws is not a bureaucracy. They do not need a tax. No new courts need to be set up. Existing courts can be used. No people ought to earn their livelihood by creating some new bureaucracy funded by a tax system like “cap and trade” that will funnel billions of dollars into an agency the both promulgates rules and enforces them. We see this type of false logic alive and well, and I addressed it some in my article on Rio+20, Sea-Level Rise, Fear, and Taxes: http://blog.ganderson.us/2012/05/rio20-sea-level-rise-fear-and-taxes/ Where certain people are attempting to create an international parasite.

      Therefore, some central entity like the United Nations can conceivably be established as a Federation of Nations, along the lines that the United States or the EU could be a Federation of States. However, it is imperative that power flow upward and not downward. The US Constitution was to govern a system in which power flowed upward. However, as mentioned elsewhere. The system has been subverted by centralizers so that power now flows downwards from political parties funded by factional interests. And, the 17th Amendment put the final nail on the coffin of state power in the passage of legislation in the government original designed as a compact among states. Currently, both the United Nations and its various agencies are not created in a way that controls the self-interested behavior the US Founders so well understood.

  2. As always, Gordon writes an extremely well-informed piece. His central point, that no government – administrative or otherwise – can be disinterested – is undebatable. So is the fact that it is the realistic awareness of this which distinguishes the Founding Fathers from most other political reformers in history.

    The comments about bureaucracy are also a propos. I would characterize Weber as ambivalent, as he was both a critic and an admirer of bureaucracy, seeing it as potentially more egalitarian, meritocractic and efficient than earlier forms of social organization.

    I am puzzled by the choice of labels, here and in the article by Ronald Pestritto, to which Gordon’s piece is a reaction: To me, “Administrative Government,” evokes NOT Stalin, or Imperial Roman, or Plato’s “Dictatorship of the Intellectual”, but governments such as the stultifying, inefficient and now floundering European government in Brussels, and perhaps the Japanese government (about which I know very little).

    What ails the Brussels government is an entirely different issue, which I do not mean to raise here.

    I am just saying that the Brussels government is in my view the best example of a PURELY administrative government, with no ideology, no guidance, no inspiration, no vision.

    The governments labeled “administrative” by Pestritto and Gordon seem far more than just that (and therein lies the problem). One can hardly call Stalin, Mao, not to mention Hitler, “administrators.” They were ideological monsters. Rule by intellectuals (whether Plato’s philosopher-king or Professor Woodrow Wilson) may not have led to genocide, but it is dangerous for the same reason – ideology and theory prevail over human beings, who become means, in violation of Kant’s prime moral directive.

    It is also difficult to see Imperial rule in ancient Rome as merely “administrative.” At best, some emperors were indeed first and foremost good administrators (Augustus, Vespasian, Hadrian, etc.), but more often they were arbitrary tyrants.

    • Tom understands all my main points well. I accept that Weber was ambivalent, and I would agree that bureaucracies can be positive–they just have to be regulated better. I don’t think the US could have a population of 350 million people without bureaucracies. They main point is that modern bureaucratic states are fairly new. It is also valid to make a distinction between regimes like Brussels and the dictatorial versions of the modern rational bureaucratic state. However, the Soviet system, despite the fact that it was implemented through the barrel of a gun and gulags, consisted of rational bureaucracy from the onset. Weber made his prediction about 1921 when Lenin was still at the helm. Because Lenin and Stalin were ruthless dictators, they were able to rein in bureaucracy,in fact they disposed of many liberal revolutionary supporters who thought they’d be guaranteed a bureaucratic post in return as “useful idiots.” Khrushchev, and most notably Brezhnev, lost control of the bureaucracy in Russia, whose weight caused the collapse of the system in 1991.

      Brussels, on the other hand, just accepted the administrative state as the form of rule. Thus they may have begun with the basis of Leviathan that wasn’t really unleashed in the USSR until Stalin’s death.

  3. The rise and fall of administrative / government systems is the problem of greed and power. It can be summed up … by following the power of money and the allure of the absolute right of bureaucrat kings. Who gets to stand at the apex of the political, materially constructive and literal food chain ? Call it the jaws and claws theory. The species with superior claws or weapons and superior persuasive intelligence or jaws will take control of its community and environment. It is a simple theory that can be applied to any social system or culture. As in nature and as well in human society, the power of clawing trumps the power of jawing. Long standing cultures and their histories can be understood from this simple point of view. From ancient to colonial times, political and ideological disagreements are settled finally on a sunlit meadow clearing where weapons are aimed to kill by opposing armies. On the domestic scale to preserve domestic tranquility, disputes are arbitrated through the due processes of the court system. More legal jawing by opposing advocates … whose judgements are enforced by a citizen militia. Although, scholars have become more sophisticated in their manipulations of language, human society has not strayed far from going into gun fights and war.

    Americans are embroiled in a civil war … over the subversion of its own Constitutional principles by the powers of selfish ambition, privileged wealth and undeserved entitlements. It’s a coalition of sophisticated talkers with false promises aligned with large populist masses, a citizenry unable to discern the federal double speak. The country is in urgent need of instruction on Constitutional meritocracy and fundamental reforms ( 4PF principles ).

  4. With the choice of Paul Ryan as VP on the Romney ticket, the table is set for a huge discussion on the role, scope and financial responsibility of Government in a modern economy. While conservatives applaud this, the progressives also relish the opportunity to bludgeon to death anybody questioning the inevitable march to Leviathan state. My hope is that the “non-ideological middle” will indeed get involved, pay attention and raise their awareness of the choices ahead. It is hard to educate the people during an election campaign, but an educated populace was the only way that the founders believed that a self-regulating society would remain free. We shall see come November 6th.

    • Please look forward to my forthcoming article on capital gains taxes vs. corporate taxes the how the political parties have clouded the real discussion to hide selfish-interests. Ryan and Romney will need to change their insistence on reducing capital gains taxes and focus on reducing corporate taxes and even increasing capital gains taxes in the name of economic justice.

    • Ron Paul tried to educate during an election campaign; but, the momentum of the downward slide of American political reasoning was too much to overcome. The power of the military industrial complex and the welfare / entitlement democracy are represented by the far ideological right and the far ideological left. The middle is occupied by corporate interests that take advantage of both extremes. Several countries have reached a similar kind of ideological impasse; a logjam that threatens to drown the country. Loggers were often left with a simple choice … to dynamite the logjam. An example of this kind of solution can be found at the heart of the Arab Spring.

      If the West is to avoid the Arab Spring solution then people will have to change their minds. People on the right, left and the corporate middle will have change their minds from self centered interests to whole purposes that are explained by 4PF principles – three objective purposes. We have been on this course for 40-50 years of trying to reach a new ideological consensus with little to show for the effort. The November election will give us a clue or prediction of the future. I would expect Paul Ryan to reach out to Ron Paul as the days count down to the election.

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