Overthrowing the Rule of Organized Intelligence: John Marini Replies

George Washington Monument - Boston

I would like to thank Kevin Kosar, Ralph Rossum, and Colleen Sheehan for their thoughtful and generous responses to my essay, “Congress in Search of Itself”.  Although there were many areas of agreement, and very few disagreements, each author focused on a different aspect of the problem posed by the contemporary role of Congress, and its status and purpose within the administrative state.  In his essay, Kevin Kosar noted that “the story Marini tells is a dispiriting one. In short, the executive branch has grown, Congress has shrunk, and a qualitative transformation of the branches has accompanied this change in size and power… Practically speaking, the institution seems resigned to its subservient position, despite the fact that legislators tell themselves and anyone who will listen that they remain in charge.”  Nonetheless, Kosar is not dispirited in his analysis.   In his instructive and upbeat response, Kosar presents a very practical blueprint concerning what must be done for Congress to restore its power and reclaim its place as the first branch of government.  In a nutshell, it would require the legislature to begin to use the powers the Constitution grants it on behalf of political rule.   I could not agree more.  But, Kosar also noted that my essay “typifies the breakdown of our constitutional system”, which, presumably, is why it ‘is a dispiriting one’.

I wish it would have been possible to offer a more cheerful analysis of the contemporary Congress.  But, I could not overlook the obstacles that stand in the way of political reform.  I was concerned that the theoretical foundations of constitutional government, and the institutional arrangements that required the separation of powers on behalf of limited government and popular rule, have been undermined.  They no longer establish the fundamental ground of politics or law in Washington.   So, the question remains, what determines the character of partisanship in Washington?  If the political offices are not understood in terms of their institutional and constitutional purpose, can the Constitution impose any responsibilities, duties, or limits on the powers of Congress, or the presidency and the courts for that matter?

Or, is partisanship in Washington now understood on a theoretical and practical foundation established by historicist thought made politically operative in the modern administrative state?  If the latter, then the partisan defense of the contemporary Congress will likely remain a defense of the administrative state.  In that case, partisanship on behalf of the administrative state itself will continue to be the primary obstacle that stands in the way of a recovery of a political defense of constitutional government.  The separation of powers, and the governing institutions, no longer serve as the principle defenders of a regime of civil and religious liberty.  The rights of individuals, and the rule of law itself, are in the hands of the institutions of the administrative state.  Consequently, the paramount problem is how to re-establish partisanship on behalf of constitutional government.

Ralph Rossum is right to point to those structural and institutional changes that have altered the original design of American institutions.  And, I share his doubts about the Supreme Court’s ability to provide a legal defense of constitutional government and political rule.  But, I have my own doubts about his treatment of separation of powers.  Rossum understands the importance of progressive thought as fundamental to the establishment of the administrative state.  And, he agrees that the politics it has engendered contributed to the undermining of the separation of powers.  He argues that: “the Constitution had to evolve: Where once it protected liberty through its limited grants of power to the federal government, federalism, and separation of powers, it must now wield unlimited power to resolve social and economic problems through the organized knowledge and rulemaking and regulatory powers of the administrative state”.

Nonetheless, Rossum believes that “the threat to separation of powers… predates the Progressives. It can be traced to the Framers themselves”.  And, he concurs with Patrick Henry’s criticism of the Framers.  Henry had rejected the Framers Constitution because, in Henry’s words, “there is no check in [the proposed] Government… Tell me not of checks on paper; but tell me of checks founded on self-love. The English Government is founded on self-love.”  But, self-love must be understood to be in the service of something larger, or higher, than the self.  Rossum suggests that the self-love Henry admired was in defense of the British aristocracy.  He notes that “for Henry, the check on government was self-love based on being a member of a class—in the British case, on being a nobleman in the House of Lords”.

He distinguishes this class based self-love from the motivation used by the American Framers.  He suggests: “by contrast, for Madison, the check on government was the personal motives and ambition of members of Congress to protect the “constitutional rights” of their branch of government”. Rossum admits that “the United States did not have classes of citizens as did England, but it would soon have political parties, unanticipated by the Framers, generating the same kind of self-love.  Think how much more powerful today is the self-love of Democratic or Republican loyalists to advance the ideology, policy preferences, and power of their parties than their self-interest in protecting congressional prerogatives from the bureaucratic encroachments of the administrative state”.   Why is it not in the self-interest of members of Congress to defend congressional prerogatives?  Is it not the case that the personal motives of contemporary political partisans are in the service of the administrative state, rather than in the defense of the political institutions and constitutional government?

The question remains: what establishes the larger purpose, the public or common good, which makes self-interest and self-love politically intelligible?  I have assumed that Madison understood self-interest, self-love, and ambition as derived from personal motives.  Ambition, or love of fame, is the most political passion because it is judged in terms of a public good.  Modern political parties are not based on principle, but are established on the ideological and material foundations laid by the administrative state.   I doubt that either party understands self-interest or self-love apart from the patronage that has been established within the administrative state.  That patronage encompasses nearly every economic, social, political, cultural, religious, scientific, and professional interest that has become dependent upon, and essential to, the practical operation of the rational state.  Both parties understand social and economic life in terms of History, or progress, not nature.  For both liberals and conservatives, History establishes the ground of politics and morality.

The most politically successful, or progressive, party is the one that has most fully embraced the administrative state as fundamentally just, as the good which justifies self-interest on behalf of progress.  The conservative party cannot quite accept the alienation posed by the rejection of the past that is required by rational or administrative rule. But, it has accepted the political and moral conditions established by historicist, or progressive, thought.  As a result, it has lost the understanding of the theoretical meaning that had established the good of constitutionalism. Not surprisingly, progressive parties are confident of their purpose, whereas conservative parties are merely cautious.

I think the Framers were well aware that freedom would produce factions, or a concern with the part, or self, rather than the whole.  Parties arise because humans are free to pursue their own partial and personal interests.   What the Framers came to understand was, that in times of crisis, parties, unlike factions, could also be based on principles that rise above ordinary partisanship.  The parties themselves could embody the political and theoretical ground of the common good.  Those principles, had been articulated in the Declaration of Independence, made intelligible in terms of nature and reason, and revealed in the understanding of human nature itself.  They made it possible to comprehend those passions of self-interest, self-love, and ambition, and to utilize those passions in defense of liberty by structuring the institutions in a way that enabled ambition to counteract ambition.

Madison did not depend upon a paper constitution, but upon human nature itself.  In our time, it is the principles themselves, understood in terms of nature and reason that have been denied or forgotten.  Parties are now organized factions, and government itself has become a faction on behalf of the administrative state.  In these circumstances, it is nearly impossible to conceive, let alone pursue, a common good.  From the point of view of the Framers, it may be the case that there is in contemporary bureaucratic society insufficient ambition to maintain the political conditions necessary for popular rule.

Colleen Sheehan denies that the administrative state can be made compatible with constitutional government.  She notes, that “for James Madison, the idea of a ruling authority in America must be derived from the people themselves. There can be no specialized rationalistic replacement for the people themselves; there is no substitute for the spirit that “animates every votary of freedom to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government” (Federalist 39).  From the Madisonian perspective, the substitution of the administrative state is anti-republican; it is rule by a minority, and it is tantamount to giving up on government of and by the people.”  But administrative rule requires giving up on the political reason of the people and their representative, so that the rational experts can carry out their will.

Not surprisingly, Sheehan wonders whether the spirit of liberty still animates the people of America.  Nonetheless, she does not believe that the institutional arrangements were defective.  She insists that “for Madison, the invention of prudence of separation of powers was more than a tool to prevent tyrannical government; it contributes to a design of institutional arrangements that promote the refinement and enlargement of the public views on the basis of justice and the general good.  The latter is of critical importance to Madison because separation of powers is an auxiliary means to control the government; a “dependence on the people” constitutes the primary control (Federalist 51)…  The notion of the people as a check upon the undue expansion of governmental power is quintessentially Madisonian”.  What becomes critical to a defense of the people’s virtue, is the necessity to refine and enlarge the public view.  Hence the importance of public opinion.

Have the people failed to check, and have they even abetted, the rise of the administrative state?  Or, has the administrative state attempted to replace political rule, which depends upon a moral defense of civil society institutions, which include the family, churches, and civil associations, with rational rule, which requires the use of social or organized intelligence.  If so, it was the transformation of the theoretical opinion that shaped the society and its culture that brought about a fundamental change in public opinion.  That made it possible to undermine the intellectual and moral foundations of the regime of civil and religious liberty.  Lincoln, better than any democratic statesman, understood the importance of public opinion in terms of political success and failure.

What links the people and the offices and its elected leaders is public opinion.  That is why education was thought to be crucial to the perpetuation of self-government, which also made self-rule possible.  Historicist thought has undermined the political theory that justified constitutional government.  Since the triumph of progressive thought, public opinion has been, the private preserve of specialists, post-modern intellectuals, social scientists, lawyers, bureaucrats.  Or, to put it in Hegelian terms, public opinion has been formulated, authorized, and legitimized by what has come to be understood as ‘the rule of organized intelligence’.  There is no respectable opinion that has been able to emerge without the authority and the consent of the intellectual elites.

Nor, has there been anything quite like the political challenge to the authority of the cognoscenti, such as that posed by Trump in his appeal to the political authority of the people.  The contemporary problem has become one of revitalizing the political by reestablishing the authority of the people.  But, does this pose a threat to the intellectual authority of the cognoscenti?  Given his flamboyance and his unorthodox method of appeal, many question whether Trump seeks power on behalf of the people and the regime, or on his own behalf.  That will depend upon whether he is ambitious enough to understand that his self-interest, and his glory, will be assured by his success in pursuing the public good.

I cannot but agree with Sheehan’s assertion “that the dismantling—the deconstruction, if you will—of the administrative state will require something akin to a Herculean effort and substantial reconfiguration of political alliances in America. The degree of boldness, courage, and sustained commitment this would necessitate—from political leaders and ordinary citizens alike—is hard to imagine, and even harder to believe will come to pass. It will depend, in the final analysis, on whether the spirit of “liberty for all” still sufficiently stirs in the hearts and animates the hopes of the American people.  But, in the absence of a constitutional revival, Sheehan argues, “the rise of the administrative state means, ultimately, the slow and painful death of the American experiment in freedom and self-government”.  In the final analysis, so, much depends upon the spirit of the people, as well as those who purport to lead them.

Reader Discussion

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on April 01, 2017 at 13:15:00 pm

Important elements are contained in Professor Marini's reference to Ralph Rossum's statement in his March 13, 2017 response:

“the Constitution had to evolve: Where once it protected liberty through its limited grants of power to the federal government, federalism, and separation of powers, it must now wield unlimited power **to resolve social and economic problems** through the ***organized knowledge*** and rulemaking and regulatory powers of the administrative state”.

were not dealt with in this writer's comment of that date to the Rossum response; now "Pinpointed" by the heading to this present essay: " Overthrowing the Rule of Organized Intelligence."

Of course, "intelligence" may be understood as distinct from "knowledge;" just as "information" is not "knowledge," although most knowledge is derived through intelligence in perceiving bits of information and further perceiving the connections of those bits to other information that have significance to that intellect.

Perhaps many of the current social and political events are demonstrating a public sense (if not recognition) that an Administrative State (such as has developed) is a sham to the extent (which is considerable) of claims that it is based upon a Rule of Organized Intelligence, or "Organized Knowledge."

Examining the legislatively derived Administrative State we observe the perceptions and possession of information by legislators and their satrapies as confined to a limited group of individuals of differing capacities and deficiencies. Any "organization" of the intelligences of that group to convert their particular perceptions into "knowledge" and to "organize" that knowledge (presumably for some purposes or objectives) is not only limited by the numbers involved but by the discrete problems of their human interactions.

The resulting conditions seem to have made it extremely difficult for a general populace to accept that there is a "Rule of Organized Intelligence" or that the claimants to "Organize Knowledge" are exempt from skepticism as to their perceptions and sufficiency's of information to form adequate knowledge for their purported purposes and objectives.

The current catchphrase is: "skepticism of expertise AND 'experts' ."

It is no doubt true that a sufficient portion of the populace (represented by the electorate) in seeking ameliorations of personal burdens and responsibilities (the "uncertainties of life") together with benefits, privileges and immunities, has acceded to, and accepted the ascriptions of, the embodiment of powers that constitute the Administrative State ** "to resolve social and economic problems;"** an embodiment of authority with **specific purposes and objectives** that require the disinterested acquisition of the broadest range of information and an unlimited range of intelligence to produce adequate knowledge from that information; neither of which requirements can be met by any form of political or social organization so far developed in the experience of humankind. Those requirements certainly have not been met by the limited numbers of individual intellects and their perceptions in our current form of legislative derived Administrative State; nor can they be.

There is the prevailing quasi-Carlyle theory of our current conditions resulting from "Progressivism," Inculcated by designated "Progressives," without sufficient attention to the changes in the composition and motivations of an expanding and evolving population, subject to extensive changes in conditions of social organization, demographic distributions, technology, the dispersal of levels of knowledge and access to information (from which individuals, separately, developed their own knowledge).

We should probably look more closely at the advent of "Mass Man," the recession (and suppression?) of individuality (particularly in Western civilization) if we are to be serious in our search for prospects for the availability of beneficial changes in our present form of social organization.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on April 01, 2017 at 17:05:57 pm


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R Richard Schweitzer
on April 01, 2017 at 18:02:06 pm

I look forward to seeing exchanges from the other participants.

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Ken Masugi
on April 02, 2017 at 13:30:54 pm

" The parties themselves could embody the political and theoretical ground of the common good. Those principles, had been articulated in the Declaration of Independence, made intelligible in terms of nature and reason, and revealed in the understanding of human nature itself. They made it possible to comprehend those passions of self-interest, self-love, and ambition, and to utilize those passions in defense of liberty by structuring the institutions in a way that enabled ambition to counteract ambition."

There is (or was) much truth to this. Jaffa argued that "Party" prevented, or forestalled, open bloodshed amongst the citizenry as Party served a s a sublimating medium for inflamed passion. (Not his words, but my take on it).

Jaffa's assertion needs to be parsed. Between the post-Civil War period and the the late 1960's, Party may be said to have served, and effected, this purpose. I would argue that Party was effective in this task because a common "ground" was shared amongst the various Parties.

Post 1970, we observe a distinct movement away from a common ground, primarily on the part of one Party which in an effort to broaden its political allegiance / base developed a strategy, not unlike the late Roman Empire, of *inclusiveness*, re-definition of rights due the populace, and the provision of an ever burgeoning cornucopia of benefits / entitlements. This proved a tactical success; but a political failure, the extent of which may only presently becoming evident.

In an effort to maintain the pace of *inclusiveness* this Party was obliged to summarily deny the very "exceptionalism" contained within the constitutional polity as inclusiveness morphed into multiculturalism and an eventual disdain for the Constitutional Republic AND the values undergirding the Republic.

Not content with the already considerable numbers of new "allegiants", it also sought to include in it's embrace all those whose non-normative, at times abhorrent behavior had relegated them to the status of outsider. These were to be henceforth known as the "oppressed victims" of, at best, an indifferent society, and at worst an openly hostile repressive society. It would now be acceptable to engage in all manner of *odd* behavior, hold and profess all manner of odd ideologies, and, moreover, it would be encouraged as an expression of the (atomistic) individuality that this party of the new millennium would celebrate.

Concurrent with these efforts to broaden it's allegiance, it was perceived that the traditional base of the Party would need to be mollified as the traditionalists would not, or did not, possess as enlightened an attitude as did the Party. It is here where the "cornucopia of goodies" promised by the Party was to intersect with the burgeoning Administrative State. The Federal Administrative State (FAS) was to be deployed to cater to whims and desires of a populace, now passive, in all but it's expectations that the State would ameliorate all harms, provide a veritable bounty of provisions, protections and insurance against the vicissitudes of civil life.

The Party (and in this I agree with Marini that the Progressives enthuse over the FAS, while the Right is cautious) sought to use the mechanisms of the FAS to fulfill it's promises to the base. Recall that this was a base so broadened as to defy ready definition including as it now does "victims" of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. and efforts in the Legislative arena to fulfill these promises would lead to further fraying at the seams of the coalition.
The practical / tactical solution was to embed itself in the FAS, which with it's vast, and nominally reviewable determinations / decisions, could be (would be) expected to implement all the fanciful policy prescriptions of the Party. Environmental, healthcare, sexual, gender, race, immigration and a host of heretofore intractable issues would be (and apparently have been) resolved by the "expert" guidance of the FAS. With Chevron / auer deference, the Party would appear to be well situated, would it not? The FAS is (was?, hopefully) free to effect all the purposive changes that the Party sought and the new Golden Age presided over by the rational expert of the FAS would accomplish what the electorally "imperiled" Legislator could, or would, not.

Yet, behind the curtain was not some little man from OZ,who could be readily exposed / dismissed, but rather legions of functionaries, purporting to "know" all that was to be known on a subject AND presuming to a higher moral apprehension than the common citizen over whom, by virtue of the experts *knowledge,* he was fit to rule.
Unlike OZ, the functionary is protected by the Law and more importantly, the *protection* the expert provides to the Legislator further protects the functionary from accountability.

In effect, we have INSTITUTIONALIZED a non-accountable, non- responsive government mechanism designed / implemented for the convenience ? cowardice of the Legislative.

And we wish to correct this - how?

We speak of ambition, institutional or otherwise; we speak of glory, personal or institutional or national (rarely).

Let me offer another word, that is perhaps a more apt descriptor of our current political class:

VANITY!!!! And it is the vanity of the High School girl as she seeks recognition and affection.


Final Four tournament is wrapping up. (Go Zags!). Has anyone else noticed that the airwaves this year were not inundated with the "bracket" choices of a certain Barack Hussein Obama such as they were for the last eight years.
That is vanity - and I submit that it is at root of many of the issues we presently confront with our politics.
It is vanity that allows the likes of a Chuck Schumer, John McCain to posture before the media lights and opine about some intractable problem and HOW THEY are going to fix it. Even better that they are then able to hide behind the FAS when things go "aglay."

The modern Legislator seeks not glory but "Fame"; he cares for his institution solely to the extent that it provides him "air time", cover articles in People Magazine, and deference. Thus Obama "blessed" us with his Final Four picks. (And The Trumpster is the one said to be vain and egoistic). It is vanity that obscures duty, both personal and institutional; glory recognizes duty, institutional, national and personal.

No, Sirs, there is neither "glory" nor a sense of duty resident in the modern Legislator.
Until we recognize that and eliminate it, we will make no headway against this "extra-constitutional" governing mechanism.

It is odd, is it not, that the common people, by and large, recognize this; yet, they, too , have been co-opted by the beneficence of the FAS. It only remains for the people to continue their "education", discard the *deference* that the average citizen has typically afforded the government expert and insist upon their liberty. They are, regrettably, too tied up with the business of living. They need an assist from the "cognoscenti."

Think tank efforts would be better utilized in reaching and addressing the common citizen via a medium of straightforward, non-technical, jargon-free, argumentation (AND HUMOR) that would permit the citizen to observe and understand what has transpired and what is at stake.

BTW: I congratulate all the essayists and commenters on some fine thoughts.

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on April 02, 2017 at 16:36:01 pm

Perhaps it may be reading too much that you do not intend into your comments on "Party" and from the implicit references to the changes in functions of parties (at least electoral parties); but, a very interesting aspect is raised by the correlation of those changes in functions which may very well be derivative of the evolution of "purposive governments" (at all 3 levels), which require, and become effective through, an Administrative State.

It is quite possible that the effective functioning of the FAS, as it has developed from, say, 1960 on, has been (and continues increasingly to be) antithetical to what had been functions of parties up to , say, 1950.

Is that at odds with what you are driving at?

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R Richard Schweitzer
on April 02, 2017 at 19:33:44 pm


Absotively correct.

In sum, the expansiveness of the *Party, * more predominant in the one than the other, has effectively altered both it's grounding and it's putative mission(s).

What Madison would have understood to be a "manageable faction" and that Marini suggests was once imbued with a fundamental sense of "duty" to the nation state has morphed into a polymorphous entitlement vending machine employing the ever multiplying mechanisms and institutions of the *State* as the State seeks and continues to enlarge it's functions.

The functions are created, deployed, administered and MANAGED as part of an overall purposive transformation of the polity AND its ELECT - the *Party*(ies) cannot help but be brought along - not unwillingly, it must be added.
Loyalty now is to the Party and it's enforcement mechanism, the FAS.

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on July 18, 2017 at 21:41:24 pm

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Image of A STEEL-cameralist Manifesto Part 3f: The Crisis of the Cathedral and the Structure of the Imperial Information Revolution. – IMPERIAL ENERGY
A STEEL-cameralist Manifesto Part 3f: The Crisis of the Cathedral and the Structure of the Imperial Information Revolution. – IMPERIAL ENERGY

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