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Bureaucracy, Regulation, and the Unmanly Contempt for the Constitution

with John Marini

Editor’s note: This podcast was originally published on January 16, 2019.

Richard Reinsch
Today we’re talking with John Marini about his new book, Unmasking the Administrative State. John Marini is professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is a Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute in California, and is the author and editor of a number of books on the administrative state, including The Politics of Budget Control, The Imperial Congress, and The Progressive Revolution and Politics and Political Science. John Marini, glad to have you on the program.

John Marini:
Thank you, Richard. Happy to be here.

Richard Reinsch:
So John, I think I’ve been hearing you talk about the administrative state and reading your work about the administrative state for over a decade. So this book is, in some sense, a recapitulation of what I’ve learned from you but also I think some new thoughts and ideas as well. The title of your book is interesting, Unmasking the Administrative State. How does one unmask it? Is it not evident in Washington? We mock it, we refer to it derisively, we know its operations, and yet, it needs to be unmasked. How do we do that?

John Marini:
Well, I think the reason it’s difficult to see is because it’s so pervasive, it permeates almost every aspect of our lives. And so, the administrative state is not merely a thing, the bureaucracy, it’s a form of authority as well. It’s rational authority and it permeates not only the public sector but the large private corporations as well in the way in which organized intelligence establishes knowledge about what it is that needs to be done.And of course in the private sector, the economic sector, those structures and the bureaucratic structures that operate essentially in the same way as the public structures, when those two come together, in other words, when the private and the public sector become enmeshed in the way in which the modern administrative state has worked itself out over the last several decades, it’s very difficult to establish what is genuinely public and what is private. What is a thing that should be political and what should be a responsibility of the private world, the civil society, the institutions that were social institutions that established how it is that human beings accommodated themselves to the social problems of families, communities, associations. All of those were ways that are not political ways but ways that have established a kind of moral conditioning of human beings within those social structures.

And the administrative state has undermined the authority of those social structures all the way down to the family. So it’s to-

It’s not merely that the administrative state is these particular agencies, this part of the government that is unelected. It has permeated the social, the political. It has centralized almost every interest that exists in human life from the cultural, the religious, the scientific, the educational. All of these things now are part of the modern, rational state I think is a better term. I think Hegel’s a regional term for it. is a better way of describing what we’re up against than the administrative state. Because administration is just one part of what is done.

Richard Reinsch:
Talk about Hegel’s term and what he was trying to encapsulate with it.

John Marini:
Well, in terms of Hegel’s understanding of the modern rational state, it was going to be the rule of organized intelligence, of organized knowledge. It was the view, his view was, of course, that the rational was going to replace the natural. The end of history really meant the end of politics and the end of those things that had established the enmities that existed that prevented human beings from having and exercising what is essentially a common will, a will that establishes the moral authority of a regime.

And of course, from the point of view of the state itself, the state is a rational organization, but it is also a moral organism. He called it an organism because it’s a growing thing. What it is… It adapts human beings to time or change or progress. So you could say is that the rational state is an organism for the administration of progress. The knowledge that’s necessary to establish the solutions to the problems that human beings face was not yet manufactured in Hegel’s time. He said that he had what he thought was civil service, in other words, the knowledge workers, that class that would accommodate and provide, establish the organized intelligence to conduct the public affairs. He named that at the civil service. The term bureaucracy was not yet in use even in Germany really fully, certainly not in the way in which it has come to be understood.

From Hegel’s point of view, the rule of organized knowledge means then that there are those whose purpose is to provide the knowledge on behalf of the State, and therefore must be paid by the state, and that they will seek knowledge and not power. In other words, just to give a juxtapose, say the Hegelian view with James Madison’s view of administration. Madison would never admit that it’s possible for human beings as individuals to separate their self-interest from the other elements that animates human beings desire for power or ambition or whatever. So, Madison would have been skeptical that any people, any part of a government should be given the autonomy and the power to seek solutions to problems that are unrelated to a check upon that power on behalf of political control.

Richard Reinsch:
It sounds like what you’re articulating is something that we say and sort of a common view that the experts, the scientific expertise that they have to, as you say, manufacture knowledge and find solutions, Hegel is articulating this at a fundamental level.

John Marini:
Yeah, he is, and what he’s doing and what took time before we developed let’s say a method by which that becomes institutionalized because Hegel established the ground of the necessity for an applied science, practical science of politics. But he didn’t provide a method of how to generate it. That came about within the next, well, almost, about the time when Hegel was dying, Auguste Comte in France was giving a series of lectures from about 1829 to about 1840 that established the method of the social sciences, that detail how it is that human beings can establish a method, an empirical method whereby they can generate meaningful knowledge that is not knowledge that’s associated with metaphysical or theological knowledge. And therefore, is genuine knowledge, in other words, not subjective knowledge.

That required of course, the separation of knowledge that is empirical or factual from the opinions that are primarily values. And of course, the only meaningful knowledge and the knowledge that is genuine or objective knowledge is going to be derived from the empirical method. And of course, Comte had established what he called the queen of the sciences for human beings. He called it first social physics, subsequently called it sociology, which was going to be really the science of society.

So, rather than politics being the highest sciences as in Aristotle, or in Madison or the founders, of course, what is going to be the directing science of course is the science of society itself, sociology. So, once Comte showed how it is that knowledge of the human mind goes through these various stages, first, the theological, then the metaphysical, and finally, the positive stage of understanding, positivism becomes the method of all knowledge generated in modernity, including the law. So, positivism ultimately establishes the authority of the law, which means that science has replaced both metaphysical knowledge or philosophic knowledge derived from theoretical metaphysics, and religious knowledge.

So, one could say, by the end of the 19th century, the authority of religion and philosophy waned and the authority of science waxed. It established the public meaning of everything that was going to be meaningful.

Richard Reinsch:
Let me ask you this. What you are articulating then is this rational control of society through expertise, through the ability to generate so called solutions to social problems, to the social questions. This replaces politics. Let me sort of bring it down maybe to more of a pragmatic American level. Is the administrative state, though, not really, is it not an inevitability within a modern society of so many interests, needs, desires. There has to be a way to meet those in some way through some sort of, rational body of people providing licenses, certifications, things like that. I mean, are these two, so, yeah.

John Marini:
I think that there were always ways. Administration is as old as government. Every kind of government in all times has the problem of establishing an administrative apparatus. The question of administration, of course, is what establishes its authority and what’s its relationship to politics? In the American founding, just read Federalist number 72 or read Federalist number 68, where Hamilton or, particularly Hamilton talks about administration. Administration is always understood in terms of what they would have considered the faculty of practical reason or prudence.

You’re asking a question that presupposes that technical knowledge is required for the things that we do. But why is that the case? You’ve always had social institutions in which those activities were always done in an orderly way. I’m not saying that we’re not required to use human reason, we’re just required to use practical reason rather than theoretical reason. The problem with the applied sciences that becomes the social sciences, those are a form of abstract theoretical reasoning that try to provide solutions to problems that are practical problems and are intelligible in a common-sensical way or a reasonable way prudentially.

What social science and what Comte did, and what the Hegelian thought has done, his philosophy of history has done, has destroyed the element of prudence in modern political life. What is the role of prudence? I don’t blame Hegel, I think Comte is really to blame for this. That’s another more theoretical question. Let me put it this way, because I think I always find, my students have a hard time understanding this too. They think that rationality, when they speak about rationality, they think of rationality oftentimes in the way that we would think about reason. The human capacity for reason or rationality is a natural human faculty, if we are to believe the philosophic tradition of the West.

And so, reason and intellection is a part of human nature. And of course, it’s something that human beings have and have always utilized ever since they were capable of intellecting and establishing ideas, whether metaphysically through a metaphysical reason or theoretical reason, or in terms of practical reason, that is trying to accommodate how it is that we understand the abstract ideas in terms of concrete situations, because the abstractions Of course, have to be accommodated or approximated, and they have to be understood. So, always you had a problem of accommodating ideas in a way that required practical reason or prudence.

I’ll give you one example. When Lincoln dealt with the problem of slavery during the Civil War, unlike the abolitionists who understood slavery in Comtean ways, in a Comtean way, as if that moral evil established the practical way of dealing with it. And Lincoln knew that was not the way you could possibly deal with slavery in America. And his prudential way of understanding slavery, of course, was trying to make the principle of equality intelligible, as the ground by which to condemn slavery and make that possible politically, which required of course getting the consent of the governed. So, Lincoln’s use of prudence is a perfect example of practical reason in operation that made it possible to actually deal with slavery in a way that had the abolitionist view that moral indignation that was established without the necessity of thinking about this politically and prudentially would probably never have been able to succeed in America.

I think that we have in the 20th century, turned over much of our judgment about politics to those who have purported knowledge that derives from abstractions, from theories that are-

… that are unrelated really to whether or not these things work practically. That’s why it’s so hard to ever find social science theories that the theorists themselves condemn as saying, well, no, it doesn’t work. Because the beauty of it is always in the theory. They always have an excuse as to why it doesn’t work. Well, we didn’t get enough money or this or that or whatever.

Richard Reinsch:
You say social science replaces practical reason. By social science, you mean that there is, those who espouse it say, there is a technique in this time, in these circumstances that could solve this problem, if we have the right people, the right amount of resources, etc, etc?

John Marini:
The social sciences establish a method by which to generate knowledge. That knowledge is the empirical method of establishing a hypothesis and testing it scientifically. The hypotheses that they create, of course, then, the truth of a proposition, the truth of the method is established in the way in which the hypothesis is established and whether or not it can be falsified or not. In other words, it’s the method itself that reveals the reality of what it is that one is trying to study.

The empirical method, in other words, says that the only genuine or meaningful knowledge is knowledge derived from this scientific method. It can’t be knowledge derived from the abstractions of philosophy or religion, which had for so many thousands of years tried to deal with these moral problems that they had understood as moral problems, and never were able to solve. Because when you think about what the social sciences in their origins purported to be able to do is to solve every human problem through the use of science in a manner in which it could never have been done through philosophy or religion.

Richard Reinsch:
You’re suggesting or arguing the way we should think about the administrative state in terms of [crosstalk 00:19:20] they can’t achieve?

John Marini:
Yeah. I think what you have to understand is, so much of our educated class that comes to become part of the administrative state, their knowledge is derived from a specialized area of study. And not from the practical activity of the things that actually, or the experience of the things that actually, that they have to deal with. Let’s take foreign policy. When somebody is dealing in the area of foreign policy and has a great deal of experience, practical experience in it, that’s a form of knowledge that’s very useful in understanding that problem. Yet you have, when you study that in the university, you’ll also get a way of thinking about these things, these things abstractly. It’s not developed through the experience of it, but through the way in which the theoretical character of the phenomenon is revealed as the reality of it.

My question about the modern administrative state is whether or not the method of science actually makes it possible to discern reality or whether it distorts reality. The goal I think of understanding something is to understand the reality of it. And the way in which humans normally understand reality is through the senses that they have, of which of course the sense that makes sense of the senses is the common sense.

What experience does is related to how the older view of prudence would suggest that if you want somebody to help you understand this problem, you should get somebody that has had a long experience of dealing with that particular problem. But you notice how many of the young people that go to Washington, all they have is the knowledge they got from their university education. And yet, their expectation is that they have some kind of genuine knowledge about politics. I ask the question, is that genuine knowledge? I don’t think it is to tell you the truth.

Richard Reinsch:
They’re going to make a life in the bureaucracy and the Securities Exchange Commission and the Treasury Department.

John Marini:
Of course, of course.

Richard Reinsch:
And they will develop the expertise and the knowledge and the impartiality to [inaudible 00:22:03]. Let me ask you this question, how does the administrative state shape government, federal government, but also, and you write about the book also, state government, and also sort of the very diverse and local interest of our country? And I’m thinking in particular, what type of Congress do we get? What type of politics do we get? How does the sort of administration change who we are as a country?

John Marini:
Well, I think what happens is once you centralize the policymaking process in Washington, what you do then, of course, the only error in which decision making is truly important is in Washington. In other words, before, say probably up until the mid 60s in America, you had a relatively dynamic state and local political process whereby other interests that were decentralized, interests that were accommodated at the state and local levels could be accommodated more effectively politically. Because what happens when you create an administrative state or a centralized administration, what happens is all of the important decisions are made at the center. And so, everybody is forced to organize itself as an interest, as a petitioner in a certain way.

And that’s true of both public and private forces in the country. So it’s not only the economic and the social and the scientific and the educational interests that mobilize and create lobbyists in Washington. It’s also the state governments, the mayors, the governors, all have their organizations that go to Washington and become lobbyists. The question that I was trying to get to in the earlier discussion is, so much of the way in which these questions are posed, the way the dilemmas of how to manufacture knowledge about these things, is no longer in the political realm. It’s put into the hands of those who supposedly have the expertise in terms of dealing with that particular situation.

Richard Reinsch:
Reading your book, it’s interesting, we hear particularly from conservatives, classical liberals, why doesn’t Congress do anything anymore? It seems to be this rather impotent helpless branch of government. One manifestation of this is the budget process, which has essentially been dead now for well over a decade and we have, as somebody said, we have government by resolution. They take one vote on one budgetary number to fund the entire federal government and you no longer have debates over how to fund certain departments and agencies. I suppose as I’m reading your book, and I’m thinking, Congress doesn’t do anything anymore because it no longer understands itself to be a national legislative body. And at the level of budgeting, and I think this is in part related to the administrative state, most of the budget is off the books, or not off the books, but, it’s on autopilot.

And so in a way, the administrative state and Congress is a part of this, it’s created it. And it sees itself as you write throughout the book, sees itself as a way to kind of curry favor, but no longer sees itself as a deliberative policymaking body. Maybe talk about that too because it seems to me [inaudible 00:26:00]

John Marini:
Well, I think what that means is that when you have that process that reveals itself in the necessity of having only a few leaders decide what it is in the budget that’s going to be retained as the final budget, what you’re really saying is that the budget has already been created by the bureaucracy. And what you’ve got at the end of the process is you’ve got just a few leaders. You’ve got the president and a few of his advisers. You got the senate majority leader and a few of us advisor, and the Speaker of the House and a few of their advisors as those who say, this has got to be what the final budget is. And then the members simply have to acquiesce or close to government debt.

What that means, though, is that the bureaucracy has established a budget, and without a great deal of oversight. You see, the problem with the republicans since the ’90s is that they’re not even very good at oversight anymore. And by centralizing, when they had control, they weren’t as good as the democrats were in the ’70s and ’80s at controlling the bureaucracy through the uses of congressional power because that required decentralizing the power of the legislative body and giving a good deal of power to committee and subcommittee chairs over certain elements of the bureaucracy.

When the Republicans took control in ’94, they wanted to try to get rid of the administrative state in a certain way or lessen its influence. Newt Gingrich thought he had to do that by centralizing power in the speaker. And that meant of course making the legislative branch something akin to a parliamentary system, except you had a president. And of course, in the way in which Congress and the President interacted in the ’90s, particularly with that closing of the government under Clinton, the republicans lost that battle.

But what the democrats learned and the Clinton administration revealed was that before in the ’60s and ’70s, Congress really dominated in terms of how the administrative state performed. But after the ’90s, what Clinton realized, when he said the era of big government is over, I think he meant it. What he really meant though was, now is the era of big administration from the executive side. The executive was always a foe in the earlier period. Nixon and Reagan were foes of the administrative state. The Congress was the defender of the administrative state. Once the executive realized that they could direct the administrative state from the executive branch through executive administrative orders and signing statements and all the various ways that you could use the administrative power of the presidency, of course, then the executive branch became a central player in the administrative process in a way in which it had not been prior.

And so, that too made it a lot more difficult. What Congress ended up doing, of course, was having to delegate more and more power to the executive branch. And in doing that, when the administrative state was expanding, in doing that, you have to give discretion to the executive, because you can’t administer these things directly from the legislative branch. The best you could do is what the democrats were doing in the ’70s and ’80s. And I don’t say I’m in favor of this, but I’m saying if you’re going to have an administrative state, it’s better that Congress have some control, and I mean Congress has a body have some control over the bureaucracy.

But you can see in our time, the bureaucrats don’t even fear Congress anymore. Just go back and look at some of those congressional hearings in the ’60s or ’70s or any earlier type, and see how the bureaucrats look at Congress and how they act before Congress compared to, say, any of the recent ones. They’re just completely arrogant and contemptuous of Congress. Maybe with the democrats in power, it might change a little bit in the house. I don’t know, but I doubt it.

Richard Reinsch:
You have this distinction too, you talk about administration versus lawmaking. And you say administration is inherently, must be partial, detailed, touch local interests, and that Congress naturally sort of would support that, and would bring these sorts of, all these types of interest to the administrative state. And as you were suggesting just now the executive was more inclined to think nationally. These things have sort of merged. But it also suggests too the administrative state truly by having the executive branch and the congressional branch, truly controls the country, I think.

John Marini:
I think the problem with the way in which Congress has given up it’s deliberative capability. I mean, when you talk about lawmaking, what you’re really talking about is deliberation that culminates in the accommodation of the various interests through the lawmaking process. So, deliberation culminates in lawmaking. But if Congress delegates its authority to specialized bodies, of course, the deliberation is replaced by supposedly expert administration.

The problem of politics, there’s no way of getting around the fundamental problem of politics, and that is how to establish a common good. Now the American Constitution does provide that each of the branches try to understand the common good, both from the perspective of the nation and from the perspective of their constitutional role. So, the Congress of course not only has a duty to look out for the common good of the country. It also has the constitutional duty to protect its own institutional prerogatives. So Congress functions on behalf of a good that is in a certain way intentioned with the good of the executive branch. But those two both have a duty of trying to establish a common good of all of the nation as a whole. All of this is impossible. It’s not possible to speak about or pursue or even articulate a common good anymore in American politics as far as I can tell, in the absence of war.

Richard Reinsch:
Also it seems, the administrative state also is able to, and you have this concept, use this term in the book, or maybe you’re quoting a political scientist, the idea of the unfinished law. The way I read that is, Congress knows it could not really secure passage of a law or a massive package of reforms if it were to spell out everything in advance. It sort of passes as this general law that, general meaning without details, and passes it over to the administrative state. But that in a way is a subversion of the governed, and things could never happen which, you saw this sort of, I thought that was interesting with Obamacare is, and Nancy Pelosi kind of famously alluded to this, we have to pass it to find out what’s in it.

John Marini:
Oh, of course. That was absolutely true.

Richard Reinsch:
Certain things came to light and people revolted, like, famously what Sarah Palin referred to as the death panel, which has never been implemented, as far as I’m concerned. The consumer protection, or what is it the, this board of physicians that was going to determine expenditures for the country. Things like that, it’s just sort of interesting to see what comes out of-

John Marini:
Well, the problem is, look, when you do that, the reason why they don’t pass laws, of course is you’re right, you can’t get an agreement in a body like the legislative body as to how to actually pass a general law that applies in a manner that would be acceptable to a majority of those in Congress. It’s very difficult to pass. General laws have to be laws that fall equally on everyone. What you do when you delegate authority, you’re really giving, you have to allow whoever is given the authority, the discretion then to determine how it is that the problem that you want solved is going to be solved. And what does really is it creates the conditions whereby those who are governed by these laws, become conspirators really with the people who are regulators. This was true all the way back from the very beginning, when they tried to do it with the railroads, with the Interstate Commerce Commission.

When you particularize an element of the policy arena, and you put several forces in a symbiotic relationship with one another, regulator or regulated, they have more in common with each other than they do with the whole. And so they learn to accommodate each other in a way that makes it impossible to establish a common good out of that kind of activity, the exact opposite of what you would want because what you’re doing is you’re establishing privilege. You’re creating privilege.

Richard Reinsch:
Players game the system. Repeat players learn how to game a system. The thinking here also, so this sort of all kind of leads to a question of, what could lead Congress to get its act together, to reassert itself, and the only answer I can come up with is a sea change in our politics. So let’s talk about Donald Trump, President Donald Trump. You wrote favorably of his candidacy, you’re one of the few. And you’ve written a lot of interesting things since his presidency. Talk about the relationship between the operation of the administrative state and Donald Trump and how, as I’ve read you it, it’s impossible to think about the rise of Donald Trump without the administrative state.

John Marini:
Well, I think it is partly because of the way in which he came on the scene. He came on the scene completely outside the political sphere, completely outside the policy arena sphere of anyone who would be a serious candidate for the presidency. In other words, if the knowledge that he had of it was not derived from the kind of knowledge that is typically thought to be useful knowledge in politics, he didn’t have a PhD or a law degree law or any of those degrees that usually prepare you for a political life.

What made me think about him in a different way was that his demeanor was the demeanor of a political man who understood politics common-sensically. In other words, he understood that his campaign not in terms of turning it over to those specialized in running campaigns. I mean, he used technical people when he had to. But the grand strategy of his appeal was pretty simple, and it was, it was tied to what he viewed the political purpose of an election is, to go to the people, present what it is you want. And when you went and tried to actually put that into effect.

So many of the elections of our time, certainly since Reagan, who was controversial because he did try to do that, but most of them, they run with a view, this is what you have to say to win. And then when you win, you ignore how it is that you won. You don’t have any obligation really to fulfill the promises that you make to the electorate. So in a way, you’ve made the electorate superfluous. All you do is you break the electorate down into groups, you establish ways of appealing to groups, you keep the country divided in terms of groups, and you never really have to establish any kind of ground that would link the governed to those who hold the office. When the people get the offices, they tend to do what they want, and they’re only useful in the sense that the organized interests have access to them.

I think we have to admit that America has done a very good job, and much of the rest of the world probably at accommodating the organized interests at the center. And maybe the next fight over the next decades will be whether this is a global center or whether it’s centers that are established in national capitals. But you could say that American organized interests are well served by the American government. They’re well served with access to Washington, they’re well served with being accommodated by every element of the American government, from the legislature to the executive branch, to the courts, to the bureaucracy.

It’s a government in which the established players have a good situation. And I think they don’t want that situation disturbed. They have been oblivious really to the reality of American politics over the last several decades. I think what really precipitated the the crisis that Donald Trump comes to try to address is the I think mismanagement of American politics after the end of the Cold War, because it became much more difficult then for them to even understand what their offices were on behalf of, because no American president or no American office holder could ever think about the world in the way in which they have done since the end of the Cold War as if the national offices, the obligation to the Constitution or the limits imposed by the nation state were almost completely ignored.

So, just what was radical in a certain way about Trump was his defense of the nation. It was in the defense of borders, all the defensive citizenship, all of those things that are attributes of the sovereignty of the people that had been, in a sense, just completely overlooked by the elites, and who have overlooked all of the social turmoil that resulted in the way in which we accommodated the end of the Cold War by allowing American companies to profit abroad from cheap labor and make huge fortunes in America without even using their capital on behalf of the good in America. Whatever you say about the robber barons or the so called wealthy of the 19th and early 20th century, they benefited their country as well as themselves, whereas you can see that the wealthy elite in America now don’t even have that necessity imposed on them, that their wealth be used on behalf of the good of their own country.

So all of these things were ways in which I think Trump knowingly or unknowingly seemed instinctively to be able to figure out that these are problems that can be solved and can be solved differently. Dogmas like-

Richard Reinsch:
I was going to say, it seems in an immediate sense too, Donald Trump most effectively responded, and part of this was sort of his brutal language but to the way that Barrack Obama used the administrative state. Not that presidents since its creation have not used it, but Barrack Obama seemed to be willing to play in almost a Carl Schmittian political way with the administrative state to punish opponents. I think of the contraceptive mandate, immigration, subverting welfare reform, all these sorts, the ways in which, there’s several more that come to mind, but it was almost like he was deliberately saying too his opponents, I’m going to rub your face and the fact that you lost to me. And that as we know psychologically, politically, did not go over well. But yet, what conservative politician was really responding to it?

John Marini:
Well, I don’t think any were, but I think the biggest problem that Trump had, and this is a problem that I have been also arguing about over the last 40 years, and that is, of course, who shapes public opinion in America. The elites that shape public opinion are the same elites that are the defenders of the administrative state. They are the professional classes, and the professional classes and the intellectuals really are those who establish what is authoritative public opinion.

And public opinion has, in a certain way, responded to the forces of political correctness that made it very difficult to try to appeal in the way in which Trump did without taking on the press, without taking on that media, that medium between the people and the office holders. Whoever directs how it is or what it is that’s permissible to talk about in election is already ruling the country, right? They’re already in charge of what you can say and how you can appeal. No president, no candidate for the office has been willing to take on that force.

Now, others presidents prior didn’t have to do it because it wasn’t as clear as it is in Trump’s time. But it was very clear that Nixon understood the importance of a hostile press. Reagan understood it. It wasn’t as uniformly hostile then to the things that somebody who’s opposed to the administrative state would be in our time. But it clearly was something that is very hard to know how to fight. How do you come into the political arena that has already established the authorities. These are the authorities, the elites that determine what is respectable in political or public life. And Trump comes along and he basically says none of this is respectable in my view.

And here’s a guy who has no political office. He comes to be understood and he’s identified not by his political persona, but by his persona, his private personal persona. And so, the objection to Trump that many had right at the beginning, which were private, have persisted because he’s not judged by politics in the way in which most of the people that behaved as Trump behaved in their private life, never had their politics judged by their private life, the other way around. Clinton’s private life was judged by the understanding of him politically. And yet, with Trump, it’s the opposite, right up to now. Even after two years of doing something, those people who judge Trump right from the beginning personally, privately, in terms of what they perceive as his character, still do it. They can’t disassociate that.

And yet, when you think about Trump or you think about how American politics established the way we understand somebody, if you think that every president, if you judge them by the partisan character of the election, just think of how Jefferson and Adams would be understood in the election of 1800 if that was how you did it. It’s very hard to judge political people by partisan election because everything that is, and so, one of the great difficulties is Trump is, how do you judge the guy? How do you judge him? We live in a time when character has very little meaning in the old sense of that term because character presupposes the ability to distinguish vices and virtues.

Richard Reinsch:
Well, and hence the authorities you were talking about. So how do you judge someone? How committed are you at fighting climate change? How committed are you-

John Marini:
Sure, sure, all of that.

Richard Reinsch:
How committed are you to this group of politics, identities, all this sort of business. And Trump makes none of the right moves in that regard. Trump could help himself though I think you would agree with me with tone on many occasions.

John Marini:
No, I agree.

Richard Reinsch:
Maybe to tie in your analysis globally, and you kind of alluded to that earlier, if we think about, I think today is the first day of the term of the new Brazilian President, Bolsonaro. You’ve got nationalist parties throughout Europe. There’s widespread concern of, as I’ve been reading about, we’ve gotten May European Parliament elections coming up and the nationalist parties are posed to do incredibly well. It is as if the knowledge class as it exists and our leading centers of power, our leading countries is no longer perceived given the deference it would receive because it doesn’t deliver anymore. It doesn’t deliver [inaudible 00:50:10]. This seems to be all coming true.

There’s already the suggestion, I mean, it’s being written that, you think about Brexit and the way in which I think it’s fair to say, those in authority in Britain tried to negotiate the Brexit they wanted, not what voters thought they were getting. And already, but it’s sort of like, so that’s been rejected I think, that negotiation May wanted. So now it seems to be, the prospect will be a no deal Brexit. And it seems to be increasingly Britain is coming to the view or enough of the Conservative Party is coming to the view, we’ll take our chances with that. To me, it’s all sort of a slow crisis in confidence, but we don’t know what the resolution will be.

John Marini:
Part of the problem of the administrative state is that it doesn’t necessarily seek solutions as much as it wants to manage problems. And of course, Burnham was right, this managerial revolution, when you look at our foreign policy, how hard it is for a president, let’s say like Trump, who wants to get troops out of Syria or Afghanistan, when those policies were made, whether 17 years ago when we decided, you never get to the point where you say, is this a success or is this a failure? Because when you manage a problem, you manage it through every phase of everything. You just keep managing it. That’s what you’re talking about, that class that claims to have this knowledge that allows them to manage a situation. People are doubting that that’s sound.

That is not sound policy after a while that you just keep hundreds and thousands of people and hundreds of bases around the world that America has just because we have this large class of people in all of these institutions, these institutions, these organizations, these rational structures who want to manage these problems. And of course, one would say, well, we’d be happy to have you to manage them if they have a successful conclusion. But at a certain point, you’ve got to draw the line and say these things do not work. I think it’s true, it’s going to be, here’s my fundamental, I think the great dilemma of constitutionalism versus the administrative state is that it’s impossible to have an administrative state or a managed state that is compatible with consent of the governed or political rules.

In other words, you can have a rational or administrative state, and that state can provide for the needs of the people in many ways and can accommodate those needs. But it can’t accommodate the possibility of people participating in their own self-rule. At a certain point, if people want to rule themselves, they’re going to have to deal with these kinds of questions that because the modern state, the global state or the nation state or the centralized state, the rational state, whatever you want to call it, has become so pervasive globally, that these problems are beginning to reveal themselves in a way in which it was very hard to detect say 40 or 50 years ago. When I started writing this, we didn’t even use the term administrative state. I use Tocqueville’s term, centralized administration. That’s how I tried to understand this phenomenon right when it was just starting to emerge as a problem because America’s administrative state is not that old. We’re the last country really because it doesn’t sit well with the Constitution.

Richard Reinsch:
Well, John, on those thoughts, we’ll bring it to an end. John Marini, thank you so much for discussing your book, Unmasking the Administrative State.

John Marini:
Okay, thank you, Richard.

Richard Reinsch:
This is your host, Richard Reinsch, and you have been listening to a podcast that can be found at Libertylawsite.org, where you can subscribe, comment, and find other episodes and links related to today’s conversation. Our email address is [email protected]

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on July 09, 2019 at 07:28:10 am

[…] Theory of the American Founding) and how we have since gone so wrong (John Marini’s 2019 Unmasking the Administrative State). Here, his audience is “those remaining conservative intellectuals who have not formally or […]

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on July 11, 2019 at 07:32:05 am

[…] motivates political theorist John Marini’s writing and thinking. His new collection of essays, Unmasking the Administrative State: The Crisis of American Politics in the Twenty-First Century, reflects not only deep thought about American government but the accumulation of anecdote and […]

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Is the Anti-Administrativist Soul Divided Against Itself? 

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