Below is an educated perspective on using bureaucracy as a tool to enable actions and outcomes without supervision. It provides a lesson in why checks and balances, antitrust laws, and oversight and accountability measures are critical.
Reflect on these itemized examples before you move on to the excerpts and editorial:
- Big banks ‘too big to fail’ due to sheer size of its internal bureaucracy exhausting the resources of the Justice Department leading to weak settlements though nonprofits (that profit from the agreement on “consulting services”), thus circumventing Article III justice (Judicial branch; and
- Executive Branch plausible deniability and scapegoating of appointed officials (who also seem to avoid prosecution–i.e., Lois Lerner, the IRS, Eric Holder, the Justice Department, Hillary Clinton, State Department, Susan Rice, and pretty much every U.S. Presidential administration in part since Nixon).
**Note: not all administration members or federal employees are affirmatively acting in a way that suggests corruption. The excerpt eludes to this and common sense should reign in your analysis. It is the assembly line separation of tasks and limited technical or professional knowledge that allows the mechanism to work and absolve individuals. In a sense, you could argue that politicizing the bureaucratic function of the executive branch creates a faction of federal employees, involking precautions made in the Federalist Papers against factions.
The bottom line may be that it is time to reign in political party activities with its own system of checks and balances, perhaps a Political Activity oversight function that requires the participation of an electoral-college type or concerned citizen body that does not rely on tax exemptions from the federal government, nor is funded by private organizations. I have to think about that some more. Moving on.
Max Weber on Bureaucracy
Max Weber took an interdisciplinary approach to political philosophy, combining both sociological evaluations and political theories. Here, Weber discusses, in part, the right to inquiry into bureaucratic actions and the power of bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is what I like to refer to as the unofficial fourth branch of government (and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this idea).
Max Weber (1864-1920) grew up the son of a prominent civil servant and a young contemporary of Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck during the political changes that gave rise to the Weimar Republic and eventually its fall and the beginning of the Nazi era, having an opportune position to witness the rise of the German regime prior to World War I and the Nazi Regime under Adolf Hitler.
Read this excerpt and tell me if you see any use of these executive powers having been exploited over the course of American governance, beginning with FDR (to limit this analysis for convenience only…boundaries are good).
From the section “Effective Supervision and the Power Basis of Bureaucracy”:
Effective supervision over the officialdom depends upon certain preconditions.
Apart from being rooted in the administrative division of labor, the power of all bureaucrats rests upon knowledge of two kinds: First, technical know-how in the widest sense of the word, acquired through specialized training. This kind of knowledge is also represented in parliament or whether deputies can privately consult specialists in a given case, is incidental and a private matter. There is no substitute for the systematic cross-examination (under oath) of experts before a parliamentary commission in the presence of the respective departmental officials. This alone guarantees public supervision and a thorough inquiry. Today, the Reichstag simply lacks the right to proceed in this fashion: the constitution condemns it to amateurish ignorance (emphasis added).
The bureaucratic procedure and process assign the proper protocol to allow access which is on-the-record under oath in the presence of departmental officials.
“However, expertise alone does not explain the power of the bureaucracy. In addition, the bureaucrat has official information, which is only available through administrative channels and which provides him with the facts on which he can base his actions. Only he who can get access to these facts independently of the officials’ good will can effectively supervise the administration” (emphasis added).
Yes, it is only at the discretion of a bureaucratic official to share the information. Good luck producing a paper trail showing the chain of proof–official discretion gets a first bite at those apples.
“According to the circumstances, the appropriate means are the inspection of documents, on-the-spot inquiry and, in extreme cases, the official’s cross-examination under oath before a parliamentary commission. This right, too, is withheld from the Reichstag [German parliamentary body], which has deliberately been made incapable of gaining the necessary information. Hence, in addition to dilettarttism, the Reichstag has been sentenced to ignorance-plainly not for technical reasons, but exclusively because the bureaucracy’s supreme power instrument is the transformation of official information into classified material by means of the notorious concept of the secret secret. In the last analysis, this is merely a means of protecting the administration against supervision (emphasis added).”
National security, executive privilege and incompetence seem to be the three widely used excuses for failure or refusal to be transparent. Government is legally abliged to be transparent to the governed and it is also the Government’s responsibility to protect us from all threats even with transparency in place. FOIA does not seem to trump national security or executive privilege. We’ve been had, my fellow American comrade.
“While lower ranks of the bureaucratic hierarchy are supervised and criticized by the higher echelons, all controls, whether technical or political, over these policy-making echelons have failed completely. The manner in which administrative chiefs answer questions and critiques in the Reichstag is often disgraceful for a self-confident people; it has been possible only because parliament cannot avail itself, through the “right of investigation” (Enqueterecht), of the facts and technical viewpoints, knowledge of which alone would permit steady co-operation with and influence upon the administration. This must be changed first” (Emphasis added).
“Of course, the Reichstag committees are not supposed to immerse themselves in comprehensive studies and to publish fat volumes-this will not happen anyway because the Reichstag is too busy with other things. The parliamentary right of inquiry should be an auxiliary means and, for the rest, a whip, the mere existence of which will force the administrative chiefs to account for their actions in such a way as to make its use unnecessary.”
Committees too busy with other things? Like healthcare? The budget? And yet, independent commissions seem to be created to have all the time in the world to investigate the new boss.
Read Weber’s observations. Then, analogize the events unfolding now. Who are the culprits? The new guys in power or the old administration? Answer that for yourself.
My Final Thoughts
We the people need to figure out how to get back what is rightfully ours: a governing body with a primary focus on equality for all Americans . Politically-fueled divisiveness is dividing and conquering the American and aspiring American people and it is time to drop the axe.
I urge you to learn your history and do so with hard copy books as a primary source. Be highly skeptical of any electronic media — including this blog, as it is at the mercy of a third parties. Also, be skeptical of the publication date of all print publications. Know your history!
Weber, Max. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, eds. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, 1978, Berkeley: University of California Press, available at: https://ia800305.us.archive.org/25/items/MaxWeberEconomyAndSociety/MaxWeberEconomyAndSociety.pdf (last accessed Sep 28, 2017).