The Trouble with Professionalizing Government

How the Road to Bell Was Paved
Not with good intentions but with the avarice of professional government bureaucrats
by William Voegeli @ City Journal

Yielding so much of the political space once occupied by elected officials to “disinterested experts”—who sometimes turn out to be neither—has harmed governance and civic engagement. This contention requires no illusions about the virtues of elected politicians. Having grown up in Chicago during the final years of America’s last graft- and patronage-based big-city machine, I understand the point of having a trained chemist monitoring the safety of the city’s drinking water, instead of handing the lab coat and test tubes to some alderman’s idiot nephew. Even as we cannot count on the guardians to guard themselves, however, we cannot rest assured that the professionals will professionalize themselves. Neither advanced degrees nor mid-career training programs that include ethics refresher courses will banish the danger that power will be abused.

The problem of power is inherently a political rather than a technical one. To survive, self-government requires citizens who understand that their rights are never finally secure and that their civic duties can never be safely delegated.

Yes. Putting “smart” people in charge does not ensure that original sin won’t come into play.


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