For understandable reasons, the Internal Revenue Service scandal has largely focused on the political question of whether the White House deliberately targeted opponents.
To date there’s no evidence that it did. That’s good for President Barack Obama, but it may not be good for the country because if the administration didn’t target opponents, that would mean the IRS has become corrupt all on its own.
In 1939, Bruno Rizzi, a largely forgotten communist intellectual, wrote a hugely controversial book, “The Bureaucratization of the World.” Rizzi argued that the Soviet Union wasn’t communist.
Rather, it represented a new kind of system, what Rizzi called “bureaucratic collectivism.” The Soviets eliminated the capitalist and aristocratic ruling classes and replaced them with a new, equally self-interested ruling class: bureaucrats.
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The book wasn’t widely read, but it did reach Bolshevik theoretician Leon Trotsky, who attacked it passionately. Trotsky’s response, in turn, inspired James Burnham, who used many of Rizzi’s ideas in his own 1941 book, “The Managerial Revolution,” in which Burnham argued that something similar was happening in the West. A new class of bureaucrats, educators, technicians, regulators, social workers and corporate directors who worked in tandem with government were re-engineering society for their own benefit. “The Managerial Revolution” was a major influence on George Orwell’s “1984.”
Now I don’t believe we’ve become anything like 1930s Russia or a real-life “1984.” But this idea that bureaucrats — very broadly defined — can become their own class bent on protecting their interests at the expense of the public seems not only plausible but obviously true.
The evidence is everywhere. The Veterans Affairs scandal can be boiled down to the fact that VA employees are the agency’s most important constituency. The Phoenix VA health-care system created secret waiting lists in which patients languished and even died, while the administrator paid out almost $10 million in bonuses to VA employees over the last three years.
Working for the federal government isn’t like the private sector. Government employees are essentially un-fireable.
From a 2011 USA Today article: “Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.”
Bureaucrats no doubt sincerely believe that government is a wonderful thing and that it should be empowered to do ever more wonderful things. No doubt that is why the EPA has taken it upon itself to rewrite American energy policy without so much as a “by your leave” from Congress.
The Democratic Party is the party of government and the natural home of the managerial class. It is no accident, as the Marxists say, that the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents the IRS, gave 94 percent of its political donations during the 2012 election cycle to Democratic candidates openly at war with the tea party — the same group singled out by Lois Lerner. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the VA, gave 97 percent of its donations to Democrats at the national level and 100 percent to Democrats at the state level.
We constantly hear how the Koch brothers are motivated by an ideology and economic self-interest. Is it so impossible to imagine that a class of workers might be seduced by the same sorts of impulses?
It’s true that the already super-rich Kochs would benefit from a freer country. It’s also true that the managerial class would benefit from the bureaucratization of America.