Thursday, May 16, 2013

Progressivism Hits the Wall

In the early 20th century a new political idea took root - the idea of an expansive central government managed by dispassionate professionals. To a large extant, that is what we have now and why the IRS and AP scandals are so damaging to the Obama Administration and the Left.

While it is often ignored, Civil Service was a big part of the Progressive movement. The political patronage system was corrupt and a significant barrier to an expanding government. As the government's power expands, so does its ability to be abused.

The solution to this was to create professional bureaucracies. Lawmakers would no longer write the rules. They would write legislation enabling bureaucrats to write the actual rules.

The bureaucracies themselves were supposed to be non-partisan professionals who would administer the law impartially. The office that rules on tax-free status was moved to the regional office in Cincinnati specifically to keep it away from Washington politicians.

So the news that this office was specifically targeting conservative groups received universal condemnation. If the bureaucracy has be used to target one group then it will be used again. It does not matter who gave the order. There were no controls to stop it and the practice was allowed to continue at a high level.

The AP story is similar. There are specific guidelines for discovering a security leak. These were totally ignored. Instead of limiting the data narrowly, the government cast the widest net possible. This is chilling for reporters who depend on inside sources to cover the government.

The progressive idea of dispassionate professionals has run into reality. Civil servants do not live in a vacuum. Some of them have strong political leanings and are willing to act on them.

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