January 20, 2004

The Mandarinate Strikes Back II

It's not just State that suffers a mandarin problem. The Weekly Standard's article, Showstoppers is showing how some parts of the National Security Complex (DoD, NSC, Justice, CIA) has become unmoored from proper civilian control irrespective of party. Glenn Reynolds, Donald Sensing, Moe Lane, and Wretchard have their own commentary.

The fundamental problem is that on the one hand, if we have the right to change all these people based on elections, that right will likely get abused in a manner familiar to US political historians, the spoils system (to the victor belong the spoils). This lowers effectiveness and increases partisan rancor. Believe me, you haven't seen vicious until you've seen the great swaths of government workers fight an election because their jobs are actually at stake. The battle to keep line B in NY State during Pierre Rinfret's disastrous run is as close as I've seen and it's just a pale shadow of what would be a regular occurrence in a spoils system.

The other hand is what we've got now. Bureaucrats, freed from the fear of political change become careerists and eventually get their own ideas of how things should be run. It's a much subtler poison to the body politic but it's also harder to rule out. CEOs with experience changing corporate culture are about as close as you can get to the required job description for a Cabinet Secretary needed to fix an out of control mandarin type culture but it's not the same thing. The inability to fire due to civil service protections makes the job much harder at the Cabinet level than it is in the corporate world.

Posted by TMLutas at January 20, 2004 09:56 AM