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.