The Deep State It does in fact exist, but not how you think.
There is something ominous-sounding in the deep state.
It implies that beneath constitutionally ordained systems and
principles, there is a deeper and more potent power in control of the
nation. It implies a unified force deeply embedded in the republic that
has its own agenda and the means to undermine the decisions of elected presidents and members of Congress. Its power derives from control of the mechanisms of power and being invisible.
deep state is, in fact, a very real thing. It is, however, neither a
secret nor nearly as glamorous as the concept might indicate. It has
been in place since 1871 and continues to represent the real mechanism
beneath the federal government, controlling and frequently reshaping
elected officials’ policies. This entity is called the civil service,
and it was created to limit the power of the president.
President Barack Obama speaks at Central Intelligence Agency
headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on May 20, 2011. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty
Prior to 1871, the president could select
federal employees. He naturally selected loyalists who would do his
bidding. Occasionally, he also would hire people as a political favor to
solidify his base. And on occasion, he or one of his staff would sell
positions to those who wanted them for a host of reasons, frequently to
make money from the positions they were given.
Carl Schurz, a German-born Union Army general, proposed the idea of a nonpolitical civil service. It would be both a meritocracy and a technocracy
– not his words, but his idea. Civil servants would be selected by
competitive exams measuring their skills for the job. And the job of
civil servants would be to implement laws passed by Congress in the
manner the president wanted them enforced.
all government employees – save those from the two other branches of
government – served at the pleasure of the president. This was no longer
true, and it meant that a civil servant could not be fired on political
whim, but rather with cause, such as failing to do his job competently
or refusing to obey instructions from the office of the president.
intent was to limit the president’s power because the expectation of
presidential probity had proven problematic. But there was another
reason. During and after the Civil War, government laws and policies had
become far more complex with more long-lasting effects on society. A
presidential term lasted four years; policies could last for
generations. If administrators were replaced every time a president left
office, as previously had been the case, there would be no continuity
in government. New administrators would constantly have to learn the
complexities of their jobs, and by the time they mastered it, they would
have to leave. Government operations had outgrown a president’s term.
But a deeper concept was at work here that
went beyond the United States, originating in Europe. That idea
mandated a separation between the political state and the administrative
state. As the state acquired more responsibility and its tasks became
more complex, government administration had to be taken away from the
politicians, who were unskilled at the job. This was in many ways the
origins of technocracy, a doctrine that stated that a government run by
experts broadly guided by their political masters was the only way to
correct a democratic republic’s shortcomings. Elected politicians provided direction, while technocrats provided expertise, advice and continuity.
On the surface, this was reasonable. It
anticipated the dramatic growth of the federal government and created a
structure to cope with its complexity. While this evolution was not
included in the Constitution, it was not unconstitutional because the
president and Congress remained in charge. But like all things, it had
unexpected consequences. By stripping the president of the right to fire
those whose performance did not meet his standards, the solution posed a
problem: If a civil servant could only be fired for cause and did not
serve at the pleasure of the president, how could the president be
certain that the policies being followed were legislated and ordered by
the government grew, the solution was to use a class of administrators
appointed by the president. These were the Cabinet members, whose task
it was to understand the president’s will and verify that civil servants
were doing as they were told. In other words, a “super” civil service
was created that served at the president’s pleasure and sought to
control a civil service that could not easily be dismissed for
insubordination without a breathtakingly complex process.
super civil service, known as C-List appointees, was answerable to the
president. But because there were thousands of them, they rarely met
with the president and took their marching orders via a chain of
command. That chain of command began with the president and continued
through the ranks of the Cabinet, C-List, and finally, civil servants.
If you have ever played the game “Telephone,” you know how garbled
messages can become.
In addition, C-List members, who could and
would be fired if an opposing party won the election, were constantly
engaged in maneuvers to secure different jobs, promote reputations, and
above all, avoid blame for failures and gain fame for successes.
This was further compounded by the rise of independent agencies like the Federal Reserve, the CIA,
and countless other autonomous and semi-autonomous agencies created to
protect not only their permanent staff from political pressure but also
the entire agency. The desire to limit political pressure – also known
as the power of the president – was intellectually defensible, but in
practice created a system that could not be readily controlled or even
understood. Among the independent agencies, even decision-making was
opaque. Between the entities reporting to the president, there was a
layer of political appointees, which created turbulence between the
president and the civil service.
Civil servants do not stage coups – they
become civil servants because the pay is reasonable, job security is
high and benefits are excellent. Many could earn far more in other
fields, but they rationally decide their preference. And many deeply
believe in their mission. The CIA, which has its own civil service
system, is not manned by massive risk-takers (apart from a handful who
actually do take risks). Taking control of the government – beyond
leaking a few documents – violates the basic principle of government
service: bureaucratic caution. For the most part, government civil
service personnel are cautious people who genuinely believe in their
mission – continuing to do tomorrow what they did yesterday. Their form
of resistance is built around passive resistance. Demands for change
manifest not in an uprising, but in delay, complexity and confusion.
The issue is not that there is a deep government,
but that the deep government is no secret. It was created with the
purpose of limiting presidential power, and in part, the will of the
people. In separating politics from administration, the creation of the
civil service weakened the political system and strengthened the
administrative one. That is what was quite openly intended.
is a layer of employees in the turbulent boundary who have ambitions
far beyond their jobs. This layer of employees, particularly those
approaching retirement, also exists in the independent agencies. The
former are bright young men and women who wreak havoc with ambition; the
latter are men and women who have spent their careers struggling to do
their jobs against a political system they regard as incapable of
understanding what they do. This is natural given that they also have
spent their careers making what they do mysterious and incomprehensible.
As they age, they become more conservative (in the sense of preserving
what is) and see themselves as the guardians of ancient verities. They
frequently face a president who believes that the experts are the
problem, not the solution.
many countries, this would involve tanks in the streets. In the United
States, it means intense and creative name-calling, either directly or
through leaks to The Washington Post (for the second rank) and The New
York Times (for the top rank). I recall the rage in the Department of
Labor at President Ronald Reagan for firing air traffic controllers. I
noted the anger at President John F. Kennedy’s false news about a
missile gap in the military-industrial complex and the schadenfreude at
the Bay of Pigs.
A serious issue arises when an elected
president faces a revolt of those who putatively serve him. Whatever
those people may think, they serve the president, who is elected
according to the Constitution. The problem is that not serving at the
will of the president and failing to respect election results –
including leaking unverified claims about the president to the media –
is inappropriate. Most presidents have been cowed by this, but Donald
Trump gives as much nonsense as he gets.
point is that the idea that there is a deep state hidden from view that
really controls things is absolutely true, except for the fact that it
is not only visible to everyone who looks but is written into law. It
exists not because of conspiracy, but because of the desire to shield
government from politics. I understand the logic, but the result has
unexpected and unpleasant consequences. A discussion of the deep state
is possible only by really not understanding that the U.S. government
functions as it does because the deep state was actually seen as a good
someone not wishing to do research on this, there is a BBC comedy
called “Yes Minister,” and its sequel, “Yes, Prime Minster,” about the
battle between the elected British government and the permanent
government of civil servants. It is hilarious, and if nothing else, will
show you that the British are as insane as the Americans, but much more
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ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
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