[Rushtalk] The Naked Self-Interest of the Government-Worker Class

Carl William Spitzer IV cwsiv at copper.net
Tue Jul 22 11:55:47 MDT 2014

The Naked Self-Interest of the Government-Worker Class

By Jonah Goldberg - June 22, 2014


For understandable reasons, the IRS scandal has largely focused on the
political question of whether the White House deliberately targeted its
opponents. To date there’s no evidence that it did. That’s good for the
president, but it may not be good for the country, because if the
administration didn’t target opponents, that would mean the IRS has
become corrupt all on its own.

In 1939, Bruno Rizzi, a largely forgotten Communist intellectual, wrote
a hugely controversial book, "The Bureaucratization of the World". Rizzi
argued that the Soviet Union wasn’t Communist. Rather, it represented a
new kind of system, what Rizzi called “bureaucratic collectivism.” What
the Soviets had done was get rid of the capitalist and aristocratic
ruling classes and replace them with a new, equally self-interested
ruling class: bureaucrats.

The book wasn’t widely read, but it did reach Bolshevik theoretician
Leon Trotsky, who attacked it passionately. Trotsky’s response, in turn,
inspired James Burnham, who used many of Rizzi’s ideas in his own 1941
book "The Managerial Revolution", in which Burnham argued that something
similar was happening in the West. A new class of bureaucrats,
educators, technicians, regulators, social workers, and corporate
directors who worked in tandem with government were reengineering
society for their own benefit. "The Managerial Revolution" was a major
influence on George Orwell’s "1984".

Now, I don’t believe we are becoming anything like 1930s Russia, never
mind a real-life "1984". But this idea that bureaucrats — very broadly
defined — can become their own class bent on protecting their interests
at the expense of the public seems not only plausible but obviously

The evidence is everywhere. Every day it seems there’s another story
about teachers’ unions using their stranglehold on public schools to
reward themselves at the expense of children. School-choice programs and
even public charter schools are under vicious attack, not because they
are bad at educating children but because they’re good at it.
Specifically, they are good at it because they don’t have to abide by
rules aimed at protecting government workers at the expense of students.

The Veterans Affairs scandal can be boiled down to the fact that VA
employees are the agency’s most important constituency. The Phoenix VA
health-care system created secret waiting lists where patients
languished and even died, while the administrator paid out almost $10
million in bonuses to VA employees over the last three years.

Working for the federal government simply isn’t like working for the
private sector. Government employees are essentially unfireable. In the
private sector, people lose their jobs for incompetence, redundancy, or
obsolescence all the time. In government, these concepts are virtually
meaningless. From a 2011 USA Today article: “Death — rather than poor
performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job
security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business
Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the
Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.”

In 2010, the 168,000 federal workers in Washington, D.C. — who are quite
well compensated — had a job-security rate of 99.74 percent. A HUD
spokesman told USA Today that “his department’s low dismissal rate —
providing a 99.85 percent job security rate for employees — shows a
skilled and committed workforce.”

Uh huh.

Obviously, economic self-interest isn’t the only motivation. Bureaucrats
no doubt sincerely believe that government is a wonderful thing and that
it should be empowered to do ever more wonderful things. No doubt that
is why the EPA has taken it upon itself to rewrite American energy
policy without so much as a “by your leave” to Congress.

The Democratic party today is, quite simply, the party of government and
the natural home of the managerial class. It is no accident, as the
Marxists say, that the National Treasury Employees Union, which
represents the IRS, gave 94 percent of its political donations during
the 2012 election cycle to Democratic candidates openly at war with the
Tea Party — the same group singled out by Lois Lerner. The American
Federation of Government Employees, which represents the VA, gave 97
percent of its donations to Democrats at the national level and 100
percent to Democrats at the state level.

We constantly hear how the evil Koch brothers are motivated by a toxic
mix of ideology and economic self-interest. Is it so impossible to
imagine that a class of workers might be seduced by the same sorts of
impulses? It’s true that the already super-rich Kochs would benefit from
a freer country. It’s also true that the managerial class would benefit
from the bureaucratization of America. 

© 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC 

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