I blame Jackson

March 15, 2004

Brad DeLong quotes Jack Balkin on the politicization of the policy process in the Bush White House and suggests that many of the governance and policy problems since January 2001 stem from the double whammy that senior appointees are political and not professional and that they have decided to make most policy decisions on purely political grounds. Some of Brad's commenters might be sharing the sour grapes of a pushed-aside technocrat, but there seems to be more than just sour grapes going on.

I blame Andrew Jackson. He, after all, is associated with the idea that government ought to be simple enough that anybody with a basic education could fill any government job: no technocrats, no elites, just good solid Jackson men filling the Post Office and other government programs. Chester Arthur cut back on this, of course, with Civil Service Reform, but we still have a tension between the notion that government is a special calling for career professionals and the notion that government ought to be available to everybody - consider the scene in the holly-populist movie Dave where Dave brings in his accountant to fix the federal budget over a dinner of keilbosa and kraut, and the entire budget fits in a single three-ring binder.

Actually, I am being unfair to Jackson. The problems Brad and others see in the GWB White House are a matter of intentions as much as execution. If you intend to run a government agency to carry out its stated policies, and don't, then you are incompetant at your job. If you intend to use government agencies to carry out political policies regardless of what the charter of the agency says it ought to be doing, then you are engaged in a very different effort.

Posted by Red Ted at March 15, 2004 10:01 AM | TrackBack

Put me in Jackson's camp.

Posted by: DFH at March 15, 2004 11:25 AM
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