The Corner

Our Partisan Bureaucracy — Lawyers Love President Obama

Thanks to the TaxProf blog and to Instapundit, I discovered this chart detailing political giving by government lawyers:

With certain limitations understood (we don’t know the affiliations of non-donors), the chart above looks more like the political affiliations of Ivy League women’s-studies departments than those of an allegedly impartial federal bureaucracy.

The civil-service system was designed to replace the spoils system, which — in addition to creating chaotic rushes of office-seekers with each change of administration — packed political hacks into important administrative positions. A civil service was supposed to change that unacceptable reality by placing the administration of the more neutral functions of the government into the hands of dispassionate professionals. Thus the strong federal job security in the civil service, greater security than enjoyed by virtually any private-sector employee. The job security — so the argument goes — was necessary to prevent the re-emergence of blatant political patronage.

But what if the combination of increasingly activist government with strong bureacratic bias re-creates federal service as a kind of permanent spoils system for the Left? Isn’t it inevitable that this leftist bureaucracy will eventually view itself not as a servant for all citizens but as an instrument of its own righteous ideology?

If the recent history of our universities is any guide, the products of a leftist bureacratic monoculture will be characterized by the following:

Ignorance: Groups of like-minded people are notoriously incurious about the ideas and perspectives of dissenters.

Condescension: They don’t let ignorance stand in the way of a bulletproof sense of moral and intellectual superiority.

Hatred: Since all the good people they know agree with them, they ascribe the worst of motives to the other side, believing them to be motivated by little more than greed and bigotry.

And, finally . . .

Fanaticism: Cass Sunstein described the ”law of group polarization” like this: “In a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments.” In other words, when like-minded individuals deliberate, their common views grow more extreme over time. 

We conservatives have a problem with Big Government, no matter who’s running it. But we also have a particular problem with this big government, as key agencies are increasingly staffed and run by individuals who wield enormous power, cannot be fired, and despise roughly half the American population. When Barack Obama urges supporters to “punish our enemies,” there are many federal employees only too willing to comply.

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