by Bruce Thornton
The Department of Justice Inspector General’s Report released last week didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know, but merely added more damning evidence for the corruption of the FBI and its investigations over the last few years. More worthy of comment, as Andy McCarthy writes, is its refusal to use common sense and note the obvious interconnections among the various bad actors, and the bond of political bias, seasoned with careerism and arrogance, that united them.
But the problems we are confronting reflect deeper dangers than the professional corruption of some functionaries of corrupt executive agencies armed with the coercive power of the state. The true moral of the story is the dangers to freedom of centralized and concentrated power––the very dangers consensual governments, including our own, were created to minimize.
The issue of political bias, which the IG report scanted, has to be understood in the larger nature of the large-scale bureaucratic public institutions that comprise the Deep State. In other words, the structure and functioning of the institution itself creates a bias that selects progressive employees. The bias insidiously becomes a second nature of which they often are no more conscious than a fish is that it’s wet.
Leftist ideology from Marxism to Progressivism is particularly useful for creating such self-serving agencies. American progressivism was founded on the conceit that “technopolitics,” the notion that modernity requires specialists and experts in the “human sciences” who can most efficiently manage the state. Progressives rejected the old democratic and republican notion that virtue, practical experience, and common sense, none of which is dependent on university credentials, are adequate for citizens to govern no matter their wealth, lineage, or education.
This debate about whether men in general are capable of self-government runs throughout the whole history of political philosophy. The antidemocrats denied that the masses are capable of acquiring the knowledge required for participating in government. The champions of democracy, like the Greek philosopher Protagoras, countered that for social life itself to exist, all men must be capable of acquiring the skills of managing relationships with other people. That task always necessarily involves hierarchies of power, common sense borne of experience, and notions of fairness and justice that form the heart of politics.
Two thousand years later, James Madison in 1792 defined the nascent political parties, the Federalists and the Democrat-Republicans, in the same terms. The former, Madison argues, hide their aggrandizement of power to an elite behind the ancient charge “that mankind are incapable of governing themselves,” even as the elites use government to further their own interests. The latter believe people “are capable of governing themselves” and can recognize that the opposite view is “an insult to the reason and an outrage to the rights of man.” Thus they oppose any measure “that does not appeal to the understanding of the general interest of the community” or “is not strictly conformable to the principles, and conducive to the preservation of republican government.” All men are capable of thought, and recognize the principles of political equality and freedom, the “rights of man” that government is created to protect and preserve.
Progressives, of course, for all their talk of “equal rights” and “equality” and “democracy,” in fact have more in common with the antidemocratic tradition. Rejecting the permanence of human nature and its vulnerability to the temptations of power and its corrupting influence, they argued that the new technologies and economic institutions had created problems beyond the understanding of the average man, but also created new understandings of how to improve human nature. Now power must be centralized and concentrated, and the federal government expanded with new agencies and offices staffed with credentialed technocrats who understand the “new sciences” of human nature and society, and so can create policies and rules that better serve the citizens now shrunk into wards of government agencies.
Having pursued these aims for over a century, progressives have midwifed the bloated Leviathan that now encroaches into our lives, communities, and businesses. The costs to our freedom and autonomy, as well as the weakening of the Constitutional order, are obvious. But the bureaucratic structure of government agencies leaves them vulnerable to the long-documented pathologies of bureaucracies equally malign to the common good.