Deep State?

Tyler Cowen writes,

I don’t believe in many (any?) conspiracy theories, and if there hasn’t been talk about “the deep state” on MR to date, there is a reason for that. Still, I have been wondering how one might think about the deep state in public choice terms, even if you have a rather modest view of what it is all about. Day to day, we mostly get “the shallow state,” so what might the deep state mean?

I immediately think of J. Edgar Hoover. A lot of Presidents did not like him, but no one dared to get rid of him. To me, that is the ultimate in “deep state” power. It is the ability of some bureaucrats, particularly within the national security apparatus, to hold onto their budget and autonomy even when their policies and/or personalities clash with those of the “shallow state” (elected officials).

I also think of Mark A. Zupan’s Inside Job, which I have just read. He talks about the ability of government officials to act on behalf of proprietary interests, including their own. It is a depressing book. The least compelling chapter is the one where he suggests reforms to try to improve the situation. As long as the public, particularly the educated public, has such a naive support for government power, things seem pretty hopeless to me. In some sense, perhaps the real Deep State is the education establishment, which serves as an anti-market, pro-government propaganda machine. That may be more important than the leverage that the security establishment has with politicians.

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13 Responses to Deep State?

  1. GU says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: education policy for libertarians shouldn’t be about “what works” given the null hypothesis, it’s all about the curriculum. We should be demanding that public schools offer a “traditional education” track that emphasizes the 3 r’s and studying western civilization. This track would not emphasize political correctness, diversity, activism, etc., but rather a real education. Doesn’t seem like much to ask, and the parents that prefer a pro-government, politically correct curriculum can still send their children on that track.

    Note, you don’t have to be a null hypothesis absolutist to support this—if you’re worried about “what works” in education, I think you’ll find that traditional education methods work better than progressive pedagogy.

    • chedolf says:

      Libertarians demand 1) an indiscriminate immigration policy, and 2) an emphasis on western civ and de-emphasis of political correctness and diversity.

      Choose, because you can’t have both.

      • Andrew' says:

        No we don’t, and no we don’t, and sure, of course we can. Private schools.

        • chedolf says:

          “We should be demanding that public schools offer…”

        • GU says:

          But most private schools teach the same gobbledygook as the public schools, often with a religious veneer on top. The number of private schools that actually teach a traditional/classical curriculum, or use E.D. Hirsch’s core knowledge curriculum are vanishingly small as far as I know (but please correct if I’m wrong).

  2. B.B. says:

    The “education establishment”? Let’s be more clear.

    Are we talking about government employees, who are unionized and use their voting power to obtain and retain privileges? And are those unionized employees advocates of the Democrat Party? And can they use their unique positions to indoctrinate young people with propaganda, and shut out alternatives, so that they too will vote Democrat? And does the Democrat Party reward them for their loyalty with ever more subsidies and power?

    The same applies for colleges. That is why faculty and administrations at colleges are silent when the opposition party is shut down from speaking or writing.

    Is that the Deep State? The Education-Industrial Complex.

    I don’t think it is ideological. I think it is all about status and power and naked self-interest.

    • asdf says:

      What would you do to get rid of it?

      • GU says:

        Public school teachers have to teach whatever the school district tells them to teach. Sure, some would probably disobey, but most wouldn’t care—they’re just punching a clock until summer/retirement in their 50s.

        And parents should be able to influence what is taught in their local district. A “traditional track” within a public should be doable.

  3. Andrew' says:

    It is what we just saw happen that we warned about 15 years ago (partly because it has been happening all along, and only now becoming obvious): they collect everything and release selectively.

  4. Lord says:

    Someone has to counter the even more naive beliefs of libertarians.

    • Rich Berger says:

      There’s that. And they’ll never get over it as long as they keep telling themselves that they’re far more intelligent than everybody else.

      Of course, TC overthinks everything. The administrative state is largely composed of the foot soldiers of bigger government, for reasons of ideology and self interest. They know they can impede any change and expect to outlast their opponents. Best strategy is to eliminate or shrink the agencies. Selective prosecution would be helpful and the recent True the Vote v. IRS decision is a good step.

  5. collin says:

    We could bicker on Deep State tendencies but I don’t remember this intense issue with either the incoming Bush or Obama administration? And aren’t a lot of government have detailed day-to-day work that is analogous to Lugardia point there is no party in picking up trash? Daniel Drezner had experience with the incoming Bush administration and noted 80% of the Clinton State Department was doing the right thing. All administrations deal with this Deep State, but maybe, just maybe, Trump administration is doing very poorly.

    In fact, at this point I would argue Rex Tillerson and State Department are a complete and utter failure so far. In terms with the North Korea dealings, where is Rex Tillerson leading the diplomatic charge here? I also note where Trump treats the cabinet adviser well, say Military of Mattis or McMaster, there is limited Deep State issues.

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