In praise of red tape

by on June 22, 2007 at 6:24 am in Political Science | Permalink

At a time when the press failed to check a reactionary Administration,
when the opposition party all too often chose timidity, it was the
lowly and anonymous bureaucrats, clad in rumpled suits, ID badges
dangling from their necks, who, in their own quiet, behind-the-scenes
way, took to the ramparts to defend the integrity of the American
system of government.

That is Christoper Hayes.   I call it The Paradox of Accountability.  Bureaucrats are, in many cases, not very accountable.  That same quality makes them ideally suited to impose accountability on other parts of government, most of all leaders.  The downside is that the Smithsonian expense reimbursement scandal can go on for so long.  Note also there cannot be the same overseer for every part of government; that ovedrseer would itself not be accountable.  (Was it Brecht who, a’la Bryan Caplan, wanted to call an election and institute a new set of people?)  At the same time no part of government is insulated from accountability either; the paycheck must come from somewhere.  Nodes of accountability and unaccountability more often evolve than are chosen, yet we have only a murky sense of what the optimal filters might be…

Tim Worstall June 22, 2007 at 8:49 am

Brecht indeed:

After the uprising of the 17th June

The Secretary of the Writers Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

Todd Fletcher June 22, 2007 at 11:56 am

Bureaucrats don’t “defend the integrity of the American system of government”, they defend their own perceived interests, which may or may not intersect with the interests of the people.

paul June 24, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Todd Fletcher is tarring a large group of dedicated professionals, few if any of whom took up their current positions for the money, with a pretty broad brush. Absent some examples, his comment is just a cheap shot.

I think commenter eddie is onto something, though.

srp June 25, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Bureaucratic enforcement of “accountability” is a nice way of describing ideological warfare and malfeasance. I find the cult of the Justice Department particularly pernicious, as though it were an independent branch of government not subject to Presidential authority. Federal prosecutors have acquired too much power already; if they can also defy the elected officials who supposedly are their bosses, then the people have no way of protecting themselves against their depredations.

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