When Donald Trump arrived in Washington D.C., the establishment went nuts. Even more so than the left-wing enclaves of San Francisco and New York, our nation’s capitol was uniquely vulnerable to the disruption Trump represented to the status quo.
Some likened him to a wrecking ball — others to an outsider, “draining the swamp.”
And in many ways, Trump has paradoxically used the power of his office to dismantle many of the executive agencies and authority that previous presidents have co-opted from the legislative branch.
At the same time, the imbalance of powers did not come about over night, and it will be impossible for any single politician to dismantle what many call “the Deep State.”
More precisely, what Trump is grappling with is an administrative state with deep roots going back to at least the Progressive Era, and likely much further as my next guest illustrates.
John Marini has written the definitive book on the historical and philosophical origins of the administrative state in his new book, “Unmasking the Administrative State: The Crisis of American Politics in the Twenty-First Century.”
Marini finds the ethos behind increasingly centralized authority in the very idea of “Progress.” Philosophers like Friedrich Hegel envisioned progressing being ushered in by a sort of secular deity — a government possessing vast scientific knowledge of the various aspects of governance, capable of remedying the most intractable social woes.
Unfortunately for Hegel and his political descendants (i.e., Woodrow Wilson, FDR, etc.), the American Constitution enshrined a very different idea of the proper role of government.
The Founders’ Constitution expressly limited the power of government and demanded that laws be made by political representatives of the people — not faraway unaccountable bureaucrats.
When De Toqueville came to America, he observed a robust civil society that seemed to cut against the alleged need for an administrative authority to manage the affairs of the citizenry. But he also saw that a creeping “democratic despotism” could arise from centralized administration such as the current alphabet soup of executive agencies that now interfere in the most minute affairs of American life.
In this episode of the show of ideas, not attitude, we put the capstone on the world’s longest running radio series on the administrative state. Bob welcomes Marini to discuss his under-appreciated scholarship, and to provide a definitive guide to the “Deep State” for a media that seems to never quite know what it means when it uses the term.
Marini is a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno, is a graduate of San Jose State University, and earned his Ph.D. in government at the Claremont Graduate School.
He began to study what we now call the administrative state over 40 years ago. In Unmasking the Administrative State, we learn how bureaucracy caters to special interests and obstructs any attempts by Congress or the President to bring it down to size. He takes on the notion that politics is only for the experts and argues that the only way to restore America is by imbuing it with a spirit of democratic participation.