The noted political philosopher, James Burnham (1905-1987), an ex-Trotskyite who became a founding editor of William Buckley’s National Review, argued in his prophetic 1941 work, The Managerial Revolution, that self-destructing capitalism would not be replaced by socialism, which he thought “a mythical dream,” but by a managerial class with an ethos all its own that administers policies.
He agreed with Ludwig von Mises who wrote, “There is no sphere of human activity that they would not be prepared to subordinate to regimentation by the authorities. In their eyes, state control is the panacea for all ills.”
In times of economic crisis, Burnham argued, the capitalist class — bankers, industrialists, merchants — will gradually be replaced by a new class of self-confident government managers. These administrative experts, directing engineers, and technocrats, will control ever-expanding government bureaus, agencies, and commissions that dictate how resources will be distributed.
They will stress the state over individuals, will talk about planning more than free initiative, jobs over opportunity, and as “economic conditions progressively decay, the reward allocated to the finance-capitalists [will] seem inordinate and unjustified….”
The managerial society he predicted would be promoted as the salvation of mankind ushering “in an age of plenty, sweetness, and light such that no man in his senses could do anything but welcome with rapture the prospect of the future.” This is now a familiar note in both domestic and international politics, but somehow the illusion raises few eyebrows.
Burnham called it right. In the post-World War II era, the administrative state has grown by leaps and bounds. And in the 21st century, the 2008 economic crisis and the COVID pandemic opened new vistas to managerial types.
New York Times columnist David Brooks claims the new standards are being dictated by what he calls “Ward Three morality.” Ward Three is a neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., populated by regulators, staffers, lawyers and senior civil servants.
The agenda of the professional governing class is not limited to economics. Czars and regulators are reaching into every home and church.
Their significance in the world hinges on the transformation of America into a Ward Three nation. For them, liberty means obedience to the enlightened values of a managerial elite.
While much has been written by about the dangers of the expanding administrative state, few people are aware of the actual size of governing agencies.
Thanks to American Transparency, a public charity, Americans no longer have to be in the dark about the scope and cost of the federal bureaucracy. Their “Open the Books” oversight report, “Mapping the Swamp,” reveals the size, scope, and power of the federal government.
The Open the Books findings are alarming. Here’s an overview:
In 2020, the federal government employed 2.8 million people — Executive agency bureaucrats totaled 1.4 million; the Department of Defense had 698,457 on its payroll, and the number for the United States Postal Service was 678,537. The compensation paid out was a staggering $292 billion.
As for executive agencies, between 2016 and 2020, the number of employees grew by 3.7% — from 1.3 million to 1.4 million. Yes, during the Trump administration, the number of bureaucrats in the government hit an all-time high.
As for salaries, over 500,000 (38%) in the executive agencies make more than $100,000 annually. Considering the median earnings of Americans — about $50,000 — working for the federal government is pretty lucrative.
By the way, the most highly compensated federal employee is none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci. He takes in $434,312 a year. Between 2010 and 2019, he was paid more than $3.6 million.
And let’s not forget, federal employees get generous pension and health care benefits, as well as plenty of time off.
The average bureaucrat is entitled, annually, to 11 holidays, 13 sick days, and 20 vacation days. These benefits cost taxpayers $22 billion a year.
The Biden White House staff has been exploding. While Trump’s staff totaled 377 employees, in Biden’s first year it has topped 560. The payroll cost: $50 million versus Trump’s $40 million.
Reading the Open the Books report, I learned why the Department of Veteran Affairs has been an administrative mess. It employs over 420,000 bureaucrats for a total base compensation of $36.9 billion. Sadly, only 28,588 are doctors.
Since 2012, the Veterans Administration added 106,037 employees. The number of doctors increased by a mere 6,674.
Here are some other interesting facts:
The feds employ 312 interior designers. Average compensation is $89,830; total cost is $5.7 million. There are also 205 photographers that work in 15 departments and agencies. The average compensation is $92,138 for a total cost of $18.8 million.
And readers will be pleased to know that there are 251 “Sports Specialists” on the federal dole. The average compensation is $70,383 for a total cost of $17.6 million. Federal “Sports Specialists” organize and conduct group physical activities. Most of them work in federal prisons.
The American Transparency Foundation’s study of the administrative state, “Mapping the Swamp” is essential reading for those interested in the ever-growing arms of the federal leviathan.
And if you are astounded — wait until you see the expansion of federal agencies if Biden’s Build Back Better plan becomes law.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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