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Plum Jobs

Where I live, thoughts are beginning to turn the question of what the next administration might mean in terms of employment and upward mobility. Not for the country, naturally; but for the demographic we care about: the Beltway contingent of lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants. The incoming administration will hire well over 8,000 of them. Who are they going to be or rather, what are our chances?

The calculus is powerfully shaped by the style of presidential government that the present administration has institutionalized to great effect. Once upon a time, the president had to persuade, and he had to bargain with Congress. President Obama does not attempt to persuade anyone of anything, and his relations with Congress are notoriously lousy. He just does stuff. There is real energy in the executive branch (though perhaps not of the kind Hamilton envisioned), and it comes directly from the White House and its various tsars and consiglieri. For agency officials, this requires a high tolerance for political direction (ask the titular FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler). There is a low premium on “expertise” and a high premium on a willingness to stiff-arm the courts as well as congressional committees. (Ask congressional staffers why oversight hearings have become practically extinct: they’ll tell you that the agency officials just blow smoke. They can afford to do that because Congress can’t credibly threaten them.)

This form of government is highly congenial to both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. Who will serve them?

Mrs. Clinton’s transition team would be awash in resumes from highly credentialed and committed applicants. It’s not just that there are a lot of them. It’s also that contemporary government so perfectly fits the ambition of a “Progressivism” that no longer believes in progress: hyper-active government, for the sheer fun of scratching itches and bossing people around with utter indifference to outcomes and zero prospect of being held to account for real-world consequences. Complicating factor: prospective officials, like the voters, should distrust Mrs. Clinton. When the inevitable scandal hits, they’ll be cannon fodder.

Mr. Trump has urged voters to ignore his obvious ignorance. He’ll hire really terrific people. Where will he find them, and who will they be? There’s no dearth of resume-builders who’d be happy to lord it over the country even on Mr. Trump’s behalf. The complicating factor is the reputational calculus. I find it inconceivable that Ted Olson would agree to another round at DoJ, or that Stewart Baker would volunteer to implement Mr. Trump’s mass deportation program: they’re not going to risk their good names. (Governor Christie’s early endorsement, obviously calculated to secure him the AG position or some comparable assignment, is not to the contrary. It indicates that high-level Trump jobs will go to individuals with a thuggish streak.) The harder question arises further down the line, over younger people seeking to build a reputation. They’ll have to ask themselves whether their careers will be enhanced by doing a really good job, as Deputy Assistant Secretary, at sparking a trade war with China. The process will select for individuals who (a) answer that question in the affirmative and (b) map out an Albert Speer defense: I joined them to prevent worse things.

Back in the glory days the Reagan transition teams had a slogan: people are policy. That’s entirely true, and a little bit scary.

Reader Discussion

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on March 03, 2016 at 09:51:24 am

Ah! The Federal Administrative State, what would it be without Administrators?

The recent (3/2) references here to the Theory of Public Choice might cause us to pause, along with Michael Greve, and note the motivations of those who would be Administrators as carefully as we should those who would select them.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on March 03, 2016 at 10:10:24 am

I contacted the trump team at the tower early on and tried to interest them in personal liberty with civic well-being (PLwCWB). They may have looked at the website; I can't tell. But so far, nobody beyond a small group in Baton Rouge seems to see the possibilities for a better future that we perceive.

About 3000 years ago, Laozi wrote, in essence, "Things are: We're confused." Political moralists since then, all the way to Albert Einstein, John Rawls, and Robert Nozick have not stated it better.

There had to be today's competitive turmoil in this young democratic-republic, plus all the discoveries respecting what emerged from physics, like the mtDNA mom of some 140,000 years ago, to make it possible to imagine deliberately (slowly) replacing opinion-based ethics with physics-based ethics as the basis for civic morality. The people who see that opportunity also see the possibility for PLwCWB.

Thank you for your patience with an alien idea: a culture of a civic people, or PLwCWB.

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Phil Beaver
on March 03, 2016 at 10:31:55 am

This comment is yet another example of Phil's failure to explain how his "physics-based ethics" and "civic morality" are relevant to addressing the problems discussed in the posts to which his comment are appended. Or any other problems, for that matter.

Apparently, if we all agreed with Phil, we would all also agree with each other, and therefore would live in harmony forever after as a "Civic People." Brilliant!

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djf
on March 03, 2016 at 11:26:01 am

[M]ap out an Albert Speer defense: I joined them to prevent worse things.

You mean the Otto Schindler defense?

It’s my understanding that when Nixon was first inaugurated, he magnanimously refrained from the usual pattern of cleaning house of the prior administration’s staff – and thus from the beginning was plagued with disloyal employees leaking secrets. In short, Nixon’s paranoia was not entirely unwarranted.

But it’s also my understanding that the existence of these disloyal people serving in the Nixon Administration helped rein in Nixon’s actions. Nixon couldn’t engage the entire Executive Branch in his schemes because he didn’t know where the moles were.

I admire people who value public service over personal reputation. Don’t quit just because the boss is nuts. Rather, do your job as you deem appropriate -- and get fired for it. If you must fall, fall in the line of duty. Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus knew Nixon was nuts, but they didn’t resign on that basis. Rather, they waited until Nixon ordered them to do something heinous – fire independent prosecutor Archibald Cox – and refused on the grounds of principle. (Ok, technically they resigned rather than be fired, but it was the same thing….) It’s far from clear that their reputations suffered as a result of working for Nixon. Quite the contrary: Both men received recognition for their behavior, and were invited to serve in future administrations.

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nobody.really
on March 03, 2016 at 11:50:44 am

Schindler it was.

"and thus from the beginning was plagued with disloyal employees leaking secrets. In short, Nixon’s paranoia was not entirely unwarranted."
"But it’s also my understanding that the existence of these disloyal people serving in the Nixon Administration helped rein in Nixon’s actions."

Imagine how bad it was for "W" when one recognizes that there is a rather large contingent of civil *servants* who can NOT be removed. Heck, some of them even removed the "W's" from the typewriters.

then again, one should recognize that there is a difference between "preventing" some crazy Presidential action and refusing to follow what is in all respects legal Presidential action. Talk about leaks - look to the State Dep't, the CIA, DOJ and a host of other departments during W's years - and now we are talking, kiddies.

Then again, I am somewhat of a Jacksonian in this regard. "To the victor, belong the spoils". Repeal the Pendleton Act - it only stymies the will of the people when THEIR electoral choice is burdened with leakers, partisan opponents, etc who have governmental tenure and fight programs / policies with all the tenacity of an employee of the local Dept. of Motor Vehicles determined to demonstrate their discretionary power over some poor applicant.

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gabe
on March 03, 2016 at 18:14:31 pm

"He’ll hire really terrific people. Where will he find them, and who will they be?"

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Let me be the first to say it.

I see a really cool GAME SHOW in the making!!!

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Scott Amorian
on March 03, 2016 at 19:58:02 pm

Luv'd it!

But The Apprentice may be a more apt descriptor for the one doing the hiring. Oh, what the heck, we already have had an Apprentice in the Oval Office for the past 8 years.
Maybe we can call it: "Apprentice: The Sequel"

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gabe
on March 03, 2016 at 21:36:23 pm

Scott:

I am taking the Liberty of recommending an essay by Michael Oakeshott to you. I noticed your interest in populism v. virtue nexus. I think you may find this of some interest.
It is from a book, available at Liberty Fund; it is called "Rationalism in politics and other essays"

The essay that I think you would really like (I mean it is yuuuugggeee, man) is called, "The Massess in Representative Democracy." I suspect it may be available as a separate download somewhere. I have not yet finished it but it provides a rather interesting perspective.
Anyway, hope this is not too forward on my part. I just thought you would like it.

Take care - and when is the campaign for guvvnor gonna kick off?

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gabe
on March 04, 2016 at 10:16:18 am

Scott,

Not only will I second Gabe's recommendation of Oakeshott, but if you will send your Email address to me @ [email protected], I will send you as an attachment a transcription of the essay in Word 93 (compatible) taken from its original English edition (which matches the LibertyFund reprint).

You may be aware that you can access the Liberty Fund catalogue directly from the libertyfund.org site of which this site is a part. That whole collection of Oakeshott is worth having.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on March 04, 2016 at 15:33:55 pm

Thanks for the links and offer. Oakeshott looks like a good read. He isn't hard to find on the Internet, and I got a copy of the essay from Google.

It's funny, he starts out with the idea of the 'mass man.' In the US the statistically average voter is a 47 year old woman. Oakeshott is already behind the times. We are governed by the 'mass woman.' Just don't use that term around her 'cause she'll think you are calling her a fat lady.

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Scott Amorian
on March 04, 2016 at 18:18:22 pm

Hey, nothing wrong with a Fat lady - they can even run for President!

Anyway, hope you like the essay!

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gabe
on March 05, 2016 at 10:05:17 am

Scott,

Your posts don't indicate "leaps to judgments."

I hope you have the full essay and not extracts.

In the background to the use of the term "Mass Man" is the work of Ortega y Gasset.

However, the structure of the essay is one of history, the history of the rises, recessions and revivals of *individuality* (Western & N. Western European); the reactions of masses of people whose characters and motivations could not, or would not, sustain the efforts for differentiations in their characteristics - resulting in resistance to, and clashes with, conditions generated by those with degrees of "individuality."

The essay moves on to the uses made by some of that resistance and those clashes.

As to the use of "Man," though no scholar of Hebrew: Genesis 2; 27 is often cited to resolve that concern.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on March 05, 2016 at 10:13:05 am

Did not find Genesis 2:27. Seems to stop at 25.

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Phil Beaver
on March 05, 2016 at 11:55:18 am

Did you lose count?

27: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

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gabe
on March 05, 2016 at 13:21:28 pm

TYPO:
G 1;27

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R Richard Schweitzer
on March 05, 2016 at 13:52:21 pm

In the translation I have, it reads:

"So God created man in his *own* image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them."

Genesis 5:2: "Male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created."

Anyway, given Oakeshott's use of "Man," (his notes are now available) for these purposes we need not conclude that females are omitted.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on March 05, 2016 at 16:29:20 pm

And even for one of a conservative "disposition" we can accept this as a needed and "time-tested" improvement - if not an *innovation* (other than driving, of course). Ha!!!!

Now don't nobody git upset here!!!!

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gabe

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.