Deep State, or Shallow?
A Skeptic’s Guide to the Administrative State debunks conspiracies with a simpler theory
In a recent interview with Christiane Amanpour, author Michael Lewis countered the talk of a “deep state” conspiracy, referring to a “shallow state” in lieu of the Trump transition team’s failure to adequately staff the executive branch.
This “shallow state” is the subject of Lewis’s latest best-seller — The Fifth Risk. My exclusive new guide to the administrative state happens to use the same phrase to push back against conspiracy theories, but comes to the opposite conclusion as Lewis.
In my view, the “shallow state” is the result not of executive laziness, but of over-ambitiousness of a wide swath of federal agencies and employees housed under a bloated executive branch.
Public choice theory goes a long way towards explaining the rise of the administrative state. With 3 million employees, the Federal Government itself has become the largest special interest group and it is everywhere trying to justify its “benevolent” existence.
Lewis faults the Trump administration for failing in their moral duty to appoint qualified technocrats to empty posts in the federal government. His book apparently paints a portrait of the government worker as an earnest public servant, with no selfish concern for his own interests. But as James Buchanan and others have demonstrated in their Nobel-prize-winning work, this is a fable—it’s *The Emperor’s New Clothes,* and public choice is like the little boy who points out that the emperor is naked.
While the myth of the benevolent technocrat often provides a convenient cover for the capture *of* the regulatory state *by* the regulatory state and *for* the regulatory state, the skeptic’s view is gradually prevailing.
The insights of public choice have served as the back drop for dozens of my shows over the years on every imaginable topic:
- Chevron deference
- Unbalanced powers & the “Vanishing Congress”
- The Corruption of Science, Medicine, & Nutrition
- Transportation central planning
- Unconstitutional administrative “rule-making”
- Stealth & “midnight” regulation
- The rise of “elective monarchy”
- The Prison-Industrial Complex & Rise of the Warrior Cop
- The College-Administrator-Censorship Complex
- The financial revolving door & consumer “protection”
- The environmental racket
- Media bias and ideological subversion
- The Cult of the Presidency
The report, prepared by my producer Charlie Deist, combines the key points from my guests into a readable, illustrated guide that looks at who benefits from growth of the administrative state. It rejects the “deep conspiracy” thinking of radical libertarians like Murray Rothbard, who admitted to using his scholarship to confirm his initial paranoid hunches.
I favor a simpler explanation – the “shallow” conspiracy theory is really no conspiracy theory at all.
It’s just the logical extension of asking “Cui Bono?” and finding evidence of cronyism in plain sight. While the myth of the benevolent technocrat often provides a convenient cover for the capture of the regulatory state by the regulatory state and for the regulatory state, the skeptic’s view is gradually prevailing.
Far from exonerating Trump, the guide spells out the paradox of a powerful president seeking to dismantle large chunks of the executive branch. Since we can hardly count on Congress to reclaim their constitutional law-making authority to make law, it may be up to We the People.