From the National Review, Tenured Partisans by Richard Samuelson


Today we have the worst of both worlds: a tenured and partisan civil service. Government employees have civil-service protection and are seldom fired, only for the most egregious of crimes. Yet they lean to one party. From 1989 to 2012, two-thirds of donations from IRS employees, for example, went to Democrats. Even so, our civil servants seem to think that they are politically neutral. Hence the employees at the VA think it is reasonable to spy on (presumptively partisan) congressional investigators, and hard drives mysteriously get destroyed in the IRS scandal. Laws are for the little people, as Glenn Reynolds likes to say.

The rise of the “fourth branch” of government — the administrative bureaucracy — complicates things further. Obamacare was roughly 2,000 pages long when Congress passed it. Bureaucrats have added thousands more. The Hobby Lobby case was about a rule written by bureaucrats, not by Congress. In fact, Congress probably would never have passed such a law. Worse, our tenured partisans sometimes delegate their jobs to activists. Who drafted the EPA’s new greenhouse regulations? The National Resources Defense Council.

Nowadays, in other words, laws are, in effect, written, interpreted, and enforced by the bureaucratic equivalent of made men who are quite well paid. So much for checks and balances. Moreover, our legal code is so complicated that, as Harvey Silverglate notes, most businesses or individuals are probably guilty of breaking some law somewhere. That puts each of us at the mercy of the government.

In the 19th century, the social-science Ph.D. was new. Perhaps it was reasonable then to believe that science could provide neutral guidance on most issues, and to provide a professional ethic for the bureaucracy. Today that belief looks hopelessly naïve. Yet the hope is still alive on the left. One may even say that that hope has become the Left’s religion. From the time that the Temple of Reason was consecrated, through Marx’s science of history, up to today, the belief that all reasonable people are on the same side has been an essential support to the Left’s self-image. Only in the abstract do they allow that reasonable people may disagree. As William F. Buckley noted, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”