Disinterested Public Administration By Technical Professionals

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    I thought people might be interested in this telling post by my favorite (only surviving!) “Atari Democrat,” which contains this remarkable concession:

    We now know, of course, that you don’t need direct White House involvement to politicize the IRS, at least for Democrats.** The underlings know what to do! The idea that they are apolitical professionals was always a myth.*** It’s even more of a myth now, in the era of Daily Kos and Greg Sargent. . .

    What percentage of IRS employees are Democrats? My guess is over 70%. It’s like the theater: Conservatives just tend to not go into that line of work. That’s why it is actually more troubling if the politicization is due to self-starting mid-level Obamaphilic officials. The argument would be this: Big government will always mean giving bureaucrats some control, and these bureaucrats will always tend to be Democrats. If they aren’t restrained by the apolitical civil service ethic, then they will always tend to harrass conservatives and Republicans. It takes a willful bad actor like Nixon to get them to act differently and harrass Democrats instead.

    It’s not an argument against Obama. It’s an argument against government–i.e. against modern liberalism.

    (emphasis added to that las part).

    Noting that he reaches that conclusion even though he is a modern liberal (as opposed to a classical liberal, much less a libertarian-anarchist).


    I am perhaps oddly well qualified to respond to this, as I’m a Jeffersonian who graduated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs (where the student body was about 4% Republican, with me as sole libertarian type) and once worked as a “Tax Examiner Clerk” for the IRS for about 6 months. I went to LBJ as part of a joint JD/MPAff program with the UTx Law School, thinking that I’d practice law for a few years and become a politician. What I saw there was that everyone there, students and faculty members, accepted the notion that we as prospective grads were preparing to go out and run people’s lives. I should have foreseen that, of course, but I didn’t, and I found it entirely off-putting.

    I worked at the IRS Service Center in Austin during the 15-month break I took between graduating in May 1985 and entering the Law-LBJ program in 1986. Of the cohort of people who started with me, one was a very devout Hal Lindsey-type Protestant/Army veteran, another was a veteran friend of his, and several others (including myself) were just there because it was a job. It’s entirely possible that the IRS higher-ups (other LBJ grad-types) skew to the left, but the entry-level people I worked with skewed toward unemployment. No great conspiracy in that huge office.

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