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Rebutting Wilson on Administration Part 2   2 comments

More opportunity to snark at Wilson from a long view.

The field of administration is a field of business. It is removed from the hurry and strife of politics; it at most points stands apart even from the debatable ground of constitutional study. … The object of administrative study is to rescue executive methods from the confusion and costliness of empirical experiment and set them upon foundations laid deep in stable principle.

Wilson took a dim view of the US Constitution, principally because it delayed progress in governmental programs.

It is clearing the moral atmosphere of official life by establishing the sanctity of public office as a public trust, and, by making service unpartisan, it is opening the way for making it businesslike. By sweetening its motives it is rendering it capable of improving its methods of work.

Again, Wilson was a utopian thinker. He honestly thought if administrators were not political appointees they would not have political opinions. I wonder what he would think if he met an EPA official today. Would he recognize how wrong he was? Sadly, I doubt it. For an extremely intelligent man, Wilson does not appear to have been very astute about human nature.

Let me expand a little what I have said of the province of administration. Mostpeople being abused by administrative state policies are the sovereign authority in the United States. It’s like the boss of a company who regularly takes abuse from his employees and is utterly unable to fire them.

Wilson could not conceive that administrators, properly selected by the right kind of statesmen, would come to control the government against the wishes of the people. He really believed that the education system could be used to train the population into believing what was good for it and getting on board with it. He recognized that it wouldn’t be easy. In Europe, the people generally had no opinion of public service and rarely bothered their administrators, but here in America … well, the people, stupid though we may be, insisted we know how to operate the government. It would take some time to educate us so that we would know what we should properly have an opinion about and when we might properly state that opinion. But it was all for our own good, of course. The people really are meddlesome and in need of proper housebreaking, but if done correctly, we would thank him in the end, he was sure … so long as we never caught on that we were being manipulated.

What part shall public opinion take in the conduct of administration?

The right answer seems to be, that public opinion shall play the part of authoritative critic.

I appreciate the theatrical bone here because one of my journalism professors had been a theater critic when he was a student at Columbia University. What he taught me was that a critic does not write, act or direct the play; he must merely suffer through it and then render an opinion which the theater will call tripe before the printed page is used to line the bird cage. Wilson would render the front-page self-governance of American citizens to a four-column-inch puff piece on Page 13 of Section D.

I really don’t think he understood how incredibly condenscending he was. It’s right up there with Barack Obama’s guns and religion comment or Mitt Romney’s 47%.

Wilson’s contemporaries did find the ideas coming from Europe to be worrisome. They saw the risk to liberty if he did not. Again, he remarks on it, but then misses the point … and shows his knickers with the next statement.

Our peculiar American difficulty in organizing administration is not the danger of losing liberty, but the danger of not being able or willing to separate its essentials from its accidents. Our success is made doubtful by that besetting error of ours, the error of trying to do too much by vote. Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything, any more than housekeeping consists necessarily in cooking dinner with one’s own hands. The cook must be trusted with a large discretion as to the management of the fires and the ovens.

Yes, liberty does consist of the people having a hand in everything through our elected representatives. Wilson clearly lived the life of a southern plantation man. He had servants who did the cooking, cleaning, etc. I don’t have servants. Do you? Most of us take an active role in cooking and cleaning in our homes. And, frankly, if I had servants who were under no obligation to listen to my opinion or my complaints, I’m not sure I’d trust the food they were serving me.

The ideal for us is a civil service cultured and self-sufficient enough to act with sense and vigor, and yet so intimately connected with the popular thought, by means of elections and constant public counsel, as to find arbitrariness of class spirit quite out of the question.

Can we agree that what we have today is not what Wilson claims was his intention? Arbitrariness of class spirit is exactly what we have. Our ruling class inhabit organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service. They proposed and force through ideas like ObamaCare, ignoring the will of the people, insisting that we’ll “like it” once we’ve tried it. And when we argue, they still go right ahead with their plans, because the ruling class knows better than we do, in their opinion.

And that’s what counts, of course!

Woodrow Wilson on Administration Part 2   Leave a comment

This is the second part of Wilson’s essay. My rebuttal will follow in a bit. Although I believe Wilson sincerely thought he was helping mankind, I also view this as the construction of a velvet tyranny that would become no less objectionable than anything produced through stronger and more straight-forward means. 

I know he’s a boring writer too enamored with his own intelligence, but reading Wilson’s own words may help you to understand where he was coming from and how he helped push us to where we are now. Maybe somewhere in these words, we can find some knots Wilson tied for us to untangle.  Lela

II.

The field of administration is a field of business. It is removed from the hurry and strife of politics; it at most points stands apart even from the debatable ground of constitutional study. It is a part of political life only as the methods of the counting house are a part of the life of society; only as machinery is part of the manufactured product. But it is, at the same time, raised very far above the dull level of mere technical detail by the fact that through its greater principles it is directly connected with the lasting maxims of political wisdom, the permanent truths of political progress.

The object of administrative study is to rescue executive methods from the confusion and costliness of empirical experiment and set them upon foundations laid deep in stable principle.

It is for this reason that we must regard civil-service reform in its present stages as but a prelude to a fuller administrative reform. We are now rectifying methods of appointment; we must go on to adjust executive functions more fitly and to prescribe better methods of executive organization and action. Civil-service reform is thus but a moral preparation for what is to follow. It is clearing the moral atmosphere of official life by establishing the sanctity of public office as a public trust, and, by making service unpartisan, it is opening the way for making it businesslike. By sweetening its motives it is rendering it capable of improving its methods of work.

Let me expand a little what I have said of the province of administration. Most important to be observed is the truth already so much and so fortunately insisted upon by our civil-service reformers; namely, that administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics. Administrative questions are not political questions. Although politics sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to manipulate its offices.

This is distinction of high authority; eminent German writers insist upon it as of course. Bluntschli, for instance, bids us separate administration alike from politics and from law. Politics, he says, is state activity “in things great and universal”, while “administration, on the other hand,” is “the activity of the state in individual and small things. Politics is thus the special province of the statesman, administration of the technical official.” “Policy does nothing without the aid of administration”; but administration is not therefore politics. But we do not require German authority for this position; this discrimination between administration and politics is now, happily, too obvious to need further discussion.

There is another distinction which must be worked into all our conclusions, which, though but another side of that between administration and politics, is not quite so easy to keep sight of: I mean the distinction between constitutional and administrative questions, between those governmental adjustments which are essential to constitutional principle and those which are merely instrumental to the possibly changing purposes of a wisely adapting convenience.

One cannot easily make clear to every one just where administration resides in the various departments of any practicable government without entering upon particulars so numerous as to confuse and distinctions so minute as to distract. No lines of demarcation, setting apart administrative from non-administrative functions, can be run between this and that department of government without being run up hill and down dale, over dizzy heights of distinction and through dense jungles of statutory enactment, hither and thither around “ifs” and “buts,” “whens” and “howevers,” until they become altogether lost to the common eye not accustomed to this sort of surveying, and consequently not acquainted with the use of the theodolite of logical discernment. A great deal of administration goes about incognito to most of the world, being confounded now with political “management,” and again with constitutional principle.

Perhaps this ease of confusion may explain such utterances as that of Niebuhr’s: “Liberty,” he says, “depends incomparably more upon administration than upon constitution.” At first sight this appears to be largely true. Apparently facility in the actual exercise of liberty does depend more upon administrative arrangements than upon constitutional guarantees; although constitutional guarantees alone secure the existence of liberty. But-upon second thought-is even so much as this true? Liberty no more consists in easy functional movement than intelligence consists in the ease and vigor with which the limbs of a strong man move. The principles that rule within the man, or the constitution, are the vital springs of liberty or servitude. Because independence and subjection are without chains, are lightened by every easy-working device of considerate, paternal government, they are not thereby transformed into liberty. Liberty cannot live apart from constitutional principle; and no administration, however perfect and liberal its methods, can give men more than a poor counterfeit of liberty if it rest upon illiberal principles of government.

A clear view of the difference between the province of constitutional law and the province of administrative function ought to leave no room for misconception; and it is possible to name some roughly definite criteria upon which such a view can be built. Public administration is detailed and systematic execution of public law. Every particular application of general law is an act of administration. The assessment and raising of taxes, for instance, the hanging of a criminal, the transportation and delivery of the mails, the equipment and recruiting of the army and navy, etc., are all obviously acts of administration; but the general laws which direct these things to be done are as obviously outside of and above administration. The broad plans of governmental action are not administrative; the detailed execution of such plans is administrative. Constitutions, therefore, properly concern themselves only with those instrumentalities of government which are to control general law. Our federal constitution observes this principle in saying nothing of even the greatest of the purely executive offices, and speaking only of that President of the Union who was to share the legislative and policy-making functions of government, only of those judges of high­est jurisdiction who were to interpret and guard its principles, and not of those who were merely to give utterance to them.

This is not quite the distinction between Will and answering Deed, because the administrator should have and does have a will of his own in the choice of means for accomplishing his work. He is not and ought not to be a mere passive instrument. The distinction is between general plans and special means.

There is, indeed, one point at which administrative studies trench on constitutional ground-or at least upon what seems constitutional ground. The study of administration, philosophically viewed, is closely connected with the study of the proper distribution of constitutional authority. To be efficient it must discover the simplest arrangements by which responsibility can be unmistakably fixed upon officials; the best way of dividing authority without hampering it, and responsibility without obscuring it. And this question of the distribution of authority, when taken into the sphere of the higher, the originating functions of government, it is obviously a central constitutional question. If administrative study can discover the best principles upon which to base such distribution, it will have done constitutional study an invaluable service. Montesquieu did not, I am convinced, say the last word on this head.

To discover the best principle for the distribution of authority is of greater importance, possibly, under a democratic system, where officials serve many masters, than under others where they serve but a few. All sovereigns are suspicious of their servants, and the sovereign people is no exception to the rule; but how is its suspicion to be allayed by knowledge? If that suspicion could but be clarified into wise vigilance, it would be altogether salutary; if that vigilance could be aided by the unmistakable placing of responsibility, it would be altogether beneficent. Suspicion in itself is never healthful either in the private or in the public mind. Trust is strength in all relations of life; and, as it is the office of the constitutional reformer to create conditions of trustfulness, so it is the office of the administrative organizer to fit administration with conditions of clear-cut responsibility which shall insure trustworthiness.

And let me say that large powers and unhampered discretion seem to me the indispensable conditions of responsibility. Public attention must be easily directed, in each case of good or bad administration, to just the man deserving of praise or blame. There is no danger in power, if only it be not irresponsible. If it be divided, dealt out in shares to many, it is obscured; and if it be obscured, it is made irresponsible. But if it be centered in heads of the service and in heads of branches of the service, it is easily watched and brought to book. If to keep his office a man must achieve open and honest success, and if at the same time he feels himself entrusted with large freedom of discretion, the greater his power the less likely is he to abuse it, the more is he nerved and sobered and elevated by it. The less his power, the more safely obscure and unnoticed does he feel his position to be, and the more readily does he relapse into remissness.

Just here we manifestly emerge upon the field of that still larger question,—the proper relations between public opinion and administration.

To whom is official trustworthiness to be disclosed, and by whom is it to be rewarded? Is the official to look to the public for his meed of praise and his push of promotion, or only to his superior in office? Are the people to be called in to settle administrative discipline as they are called in to settle constitutional principles? These questions evidently find their root in what is undoubtedly the fundamental problem of this whole study. That problem is: What part shall public opinion take in the conduct of administration?

The right answer seems to be, that public opinion shall play the part of authoritative critic.

But the method by which its authority shall be made to tell? Our peculiar American difficulty in organizing administration is not the danger of losing liberty, but the danger of not being able or willing to separate its essentials from its accidents. Our success is made doubtful by that besetting error of ours, the error of trying to do too much by vote. Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything, any more than housekeeping consists necessarily in cooking dinner with one’s own hands. The cook must be trusted with a large discretion as to the management of the fires and the ovens.

In those countries in which public opinion has yet to be instructed in its privileges, yet to be accustomed to having its own way, this question as to the province of public opinion is much more ready soluble than in this country, where public opinion is wide awake and quite intent upon having its own way anyhow. It is pathetic to see a whole book written by a German professor of political science for the purpose of saying to his countrymen, “Please try to have an opinion about national affairs”; but a public which is so modest may at least be expected to be very docile and acquiescent in learning what things it has not a right to think and speak about imperatively. It may be sluggish, but it will not be meddlesome. It will submit to be instructed before it tries to instruct. Its political education will come before its political activity. In trying to instruct our own public opinion, we are dealing with a pupil apt to think itself quite sufficiently instructed beforehand.

The problem is to make public opinion efficient without suffering it to be meddlesome. Directly exercised, in the oversight of the daily details and in the choice of the daily means of government, public criticism is of course a clumsy nuisance, a rustic handling delicate machinery. But as superintending the greater forces of formative policy alike in politics and administration, public criticism is altogether safe and beneficent, altogether indispensable. Let administrative study find the best means for giving public criticism this control and for shutting it out from all other interference.

But is the whole duty of administrative study done when it has taught the people what sort of administration to desire and demand, and how to get what they demand? Ought it not to go on to drill candidates for the public service?

There is an admirable movement towards universal political education now afoot in this country. The time will soon come when no college of respectability can afford to do without a well-filled chair of political science. But the education thus imparted will go but a certain length. It will multiply the number of intelligent critics of government, but it will create no component body of administrators. It will prepare the way for the development of a sure-footed understanding of the general principles of government, but it will not necessarily foster skill in conducting government. It is an education which will equip legislators, perhaps, but not executive officials. If we are to improve public opinion, which is the motive power of government, we must prepare better officials as the apparatus of government. If we are to put in new boilers and to mend the fires which drive our governmental machinery, we must not leave the old wheels and joints and valves and bands to creak and buzz and clatter on as best they may at bidding of the new force. We must put in new running parts wherever there is the least lack of strength or adjustment. It will be necessary to organize democracy by sending up to the competitive examinations for the civil service men definitely prepared for standing liberal tests as to technical knowledge. A technically schooled civil service will presently have become indispensable.

I know that a corps of civil servants prepared by
a special schooling and drilled, after appointment, into a perfected organization, with appropriate hierarchy and characteristic discipline, seems to a great many very thoughtful persons to contain elements which might combine to make an offensive official class,—a distinct, semi-corporate body with sympathies divorced from those of a progressive, free-spirited people, and with hearts narrowed to the meanness of a bigoted officialism. Certainly such a class would be altogether hateful and harmful in the United States. Any measure calculated to produce it would for us be measures of reaction and of folly.

But to fear the creation of a domineering, illiberal officialism as a result of the studies I am here proposing is to miss altogether the principle upon which I wish most to insist. That principle is, that administration in the United States must be at all points sensitive to public opinion. A body of thoroughly trained officials serving during good behavior we must have in any case: that is a plain business necessity. But the apprehension that such a body will be anything un-American clears away the moment it is asked. What is to constitute good behavior? For that question obviously carries its own answer on its face. Steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve will constitute good behavior. That policy will have no taint of officialism about it. It will not be the creation of permanent officials, but of statesmen whose responsibility to public opinion will be direct and inevitable. Bureaucracy can exist only where the whole service of the state is removed from the common political life of the people, its chiefs as well as its rank and file. Its motives, its objects, its policy, its standards, must be bureaucratic. It would be difficult to point out any examples of impudent exclusiveness and arbitrariness on the part of officials doing service under a chief of department who really served the people, as all our chiefs of departments must be made to do. It would be easy, on the other hand, to adduce other instances like that of the influence of Stein in Prussia, where the leadership of one statesman imbued with true public spirit transformed arrogant and perfunctory bureaux into public-spirited instruments of just government.

The ideal for us is a civil service cultured and self-sufficient enough to act with sense and vigor, and yet so intimately connected with the popular thought, by means of elections and constant public counsel, as to find arbitrariness of class spirit quite out of the question.

 

Rebutting Wilson on Administration Part 1   2 comments

Now, I get to snark at Wilson from the 20-20 viewpoint of 120 years of experience. Lest anyone be confused, although I agree with observers like Glenn Beck that Wilson was the true genesis of the administrative state in America, I believe that Woodrow Wilson had the very best of intentions in pursuing the study of administration and suffusing the American government with it. God protect us from politicians wielding good intentions! He thought to make governance faster, smoother, more expert. He thought this was a good thing … a godly pursuit — and I think that in his heart of hearts he was absolutely convinced that if we continued to let the people rule the country would collapse into the corruption of the Reconstruction-era South. So maybe my prayer should be:  God protect us from politicians with psychological issues wielding good intentions!

Wilson’s writing is in bold and mine rebuttal is in standard type.

Why was it so late in coming? Why did it wait till this too busy century of ours to demand attention for itself? Administration is the most obvious part of government; it is government in action; it is the executive, the operative, the most visible side of government, and is of course as old as government itself. It is government in action, and one might very naturally expect to find that government in action had arrested the attention and provoked the scrutiny of writers of politics very early in the history of systematic thought.

I have the advantage of 120 years of additional experience, but my answer to President Wilson, were he alive today would be: Is it possible that it came so late because our Founders considered unelected bureaucrats running the government to be a huge mistake? Recognize that they had experience with the appointed governors and staff from the British crown. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had all spent time in Europe where the professional bureaucracy was growing at the time. Maybe … maybe they thought it was a really dumb idea and that’s why they never pursued it. And maybe their immediate predecessors and their acolytes absorbed those lessons, so that it wasn’t until the Civil War that people began to forget what the Founders had taught. Maybe when d’Toqueville’s Democracy in America was originally published, some Americans read it and noted that here was a man from that bureaucratic haven of France who admired America’s more straight-forward governance and warned us not to imitate France.

Maybe ….

When Blackstone lamented that corporations had no bodies to be kicked and no souls to be damned, he was anticipating the proper time for such regrets by a full century.

Even a broken watch is right twice a day and Wilson’s reference to Blackstone is insightful, because Blackstone foresaw the potential power of corporations. Wilson saw the corporations as a problem, but he failed to foresee the complications that would arise when the administration and the big corporations became best buddies in fact, while pretending to be enemies in the media.

There is scarcely a single duty of government which was once simple which is not now complex; government once had but a few masters; it now has scores of masters. Majorities formerly only underwent government; they now conduct government. Where government once might follow the whims of a court, it must now follow the views of a nation.

Maybe government of the people, for the people and by the people was never supposed to get that complicated. Maybe government was supposed to be small, with a specific number of duties. Maybe those many complications were supposed to be done by private entities or local governments so that the federal government could concentrate on things like national defense, borders, and foreign trade. Maybe ….

The poisonous atmosphere of city government, the crooked secrets of state administration, the confusion, sinecurism, and corruption ever and again discovered in the bureaux at Washington forbid us to believe that any clear conceptions of what constitutes good administration are as yet very widely current in the United States.

I’m going to suggest that Wilson had a bit of PTSD from the Southern Reconstruction with its corruption, crooked secrets, etc., and earnestly thought he knew better how to conduct government, but when people with psychological problems project their psychology on healthy people it’s called Borderline Personality Disorder.

If an explanation be sought why a science manifestly so susceptible of being made useful to all governments alike should have received attention first in Europe, where government has long been a monopoly, rather than in England or the United States, where government has long been a common franchise, the reason will doubtless be found to be twofold: first, that in Europe, just because government was independent of popular assent, there was more governing to be done; and, second, that the desire to keep government a monopoly made the monopolists interested in discovering the least irritating means of governing. They were, besides, few enough to adopt means promptly.

I seriously doubt Wilson would have recognized the irony of what this paragraph says. Continental Europe had been governed by kings and emperors who, desiring to keep power, had installed bureaucracy to pretend to address the needs of the people. In the United States (and a lesser degree in England), liberty had addressed the needs of the people and we had not developed an administrative state. Having thrown off the bonds of European tyranny, Wilson thought we should emulate European administrative tyranny. No, you really cannot make this stuff up!

The English race, consequently, has long and successfully studied the art of curbing executive power to the constant neglect of the art of perfecting executive methods. It has exercised itself much more in controlling than in energizing government. It has been more concerned to render government just and moderate than to make it facile, well-ordered, and effective.

Wilson did not think that government was a hazard to the liberty of the people. We’ll get to why he believed that at a later point, but this passage – of which I only posted a part – drips with naïvety.

Such an explanation seems to afford the only escape from blank astonishment at the fact that, in spite of our vast advantages in point of political liberty, and above all in point of practical political skill and sagacity, so many nations are ahead of us in administrative organization and administrative skill. Why, for instance, have we but just begun purifying a civil service which was rotten full fifty years ago? To say that slavery diverted us is but to repeat what I have said-that flaws in our constitution delayed us.

…flaws in our constitution delayed us.

Well, he came right out and said it. The US constitution is flawed because it prevented us from growing an administrative state. Or was it? Perhaps it depends on your perspective. He did have a point about the civil service at the time. The Executive Branch in those days relied on political appointees rather than a permanent bureaucracy. Graft had become commonplace and reform was underway, including hiring bureaucrats who would remain through successive generations. This was a good and a bad thing and I’ll get to that in a later discussion. The takeaway on this should be that Wilson thought our constitution was deeply flawed.

Of course all reasonable preference would declare for this English and American course of politics rather than for that of any European country. We should not like to have had Prussia’s history for the sake of having Prussia’s administrative skill; and Prussia’s particular system of administration would quite suffocate us. It is better to be untrained and free than to be servile and systematic.

Wow, Wilson was standing right on the reason the United States had not developed an administrative state, but he couldn’t see it.

What, then, is there to prevent?

Well, principally, popular sovereignty

Well, principally, popular sovereignty. It is harder for democracy to organize administration than for monarchy…. We have enthroned public opinion; and it is forbidden us to hope during its reign for any quick schooling of the sovereign in executive expertness or in the conditions of perfect functional balance in government. The very fact that we have realized popular rule in its fullness has made the task of organizing that rule just so much the more difficult. … They can agree upon nothing simple: advance must be made through compromise, by a compounding of differences, by a trimming of plans and a suppression of too straightforward principles. There will be a succession of resolves running through a course of years, a dropping fire of commands running through the whole gamut of modifications.

For a political scientist it appears that Wilson had not spent much time reading the Founding Fathers’ extra-constitutional writings. They conceived the federal government to be a complicated web of checks and balances that would prevent government from doing anything without the consent of the people. Large plans would require work to establish consensus, thus preventing government from growing out of the control of the people.  Government would do something only when a majority of the people in a majority of the states wanted it to be done.

Whoever would effect a change in a modern constitutional government must first educate his fellow-citizens to want some change. That done, he must persuade them to want the particular change he wants. He must first make public opinion willing to listen and then see to it that it listen to the right things. He must stir it up to search for an opinion, and then manage to put the right opinion in its way.

Does that sound familiar? Yes, the modern administrative state. If there is no crisis to exploit, create one, then persuade people to want the change the administrative state recommends for the crisis it created. Clever!

The bulk of mankind is rigidly unphilosophical, and nowadays the bulk of mankind votes. A truth must become not only plain but also commonplace before it will be seen by the people ….

We the people are not very smart, but unfortunately, we get to vote, so says Mr. Wilson. Remember the derision people heaped on Sarah Palin because she wasn’t Ivy League educated? The attitude was not new to Wilson, but he gave it a public voice and subsequent progressives have advanced the idea that only an elite few are qualified to rule based upon their background more than their skills.

To know the public mind of this country, one must know the mind, not of Americans of the older stocks only, but also of Irishmen, of Germans, of negroes. In order to get a footing for new doctrine, one must influence minds cast in every mould of race, minds inheriting every bias of environment, warped by the histories of a score of different nations, warmed or chilled, closed or expanded by almost every climate of the globe.

Wilson, like many of his contemporaries didn’t like American culture much. He was certain his people were much more capable of ruling the “masses” than the masses were capable of ruling ourselves.

As you might expect from where and when he grew up, he was a racist. You only find hints of that in this essay, but in later writings it was more overt. His policies as president were even more clear on the subject.

We’ll go on to the meat of Wilson’s argument for administration later.

Woodrow Wilson on Administration Part 1   1 comment

Wilson’s essay on administration is quite long and a bit of a snore, so I divided into three parts (which is how he arranged it) and put my commentary following each of the three parts. Wilson’s essay is a worthwhile read to understand what he thought he was accomplishing, but very academic. My rebuttal just highlights what I thought were the salient points. Lela

Woodrow Wilson on Administration (Part 1)

I suppose that no practical science is ever studied where there is no need to know it. The very fact, therefore, that the eminently practical science of administration is finding its way into college courses in this country would prove that this country needs to know more about administration, were such proof of the fact required to make out a case. It need not be said, however, that we do not look into college programmes for proof of this fact. It is a thing almost taken for granted among us, that the present movement called civil service reform must, after the accomplishment of its first purpose, expand into efforts to improve, not the personnel only, but also the organization and methods of our government offices: because it is plain that their organizations and methods need improvement only less than their personnel. It is the object of administrative study to discover, first, what government can properly and successfully do, and, secondly, how it can do these proper things with the utmost possible efficiency and at the least possible cost either of money or of energy. On both these points there is obviously much need of light among us; and only careful study can supply that light.

Before entering on that study, however, it is needful:

  1. To take some account of what others have done in the same line; that is to say, of the history of the study.
  2. To ascertain just what is its subject-matter.
  3. To determine just what are the best methods by which to develop it, and the most clarifying political conceptions to carry with us into it.

Unless we know and settle these things, we shall set out without chart or compass.

I.

The science of administration is the latest fruit of that study of the science of politics which was begun some twenty-two hundred years ago. It is a birth of our own century, almost of our own generation.

Why was it so late in coming? Why did it wait till this too busy century of ours to demand attention for itself? Administration is the most obvious part of government; it is government in action; it is the executive, the operative, the most visible side of government, and is of course as old as government itself. It is government in action, and one might very naturally expect to find that government in action had arrested the attention and provoked the scrutiny of writers of politics very early in the history of systematic thought.

But such was not the case. No one wrote systematically of administration as a branch of the science of government until the present century had passed its first youth and had begun to put forth its characteristic flower of the systematic knowledge. Up to our own day all the political writers whom we now read had thought, argued, dogmatized only about the constitution of government; about the nature of the state, the essence and seat of sovereignty, popular power and kingly prerogative; about the greatest meanings lying at the heart of government, and the high ends set before the purpose of government by man’s nature and man’s aims. The central field of controversy was that great field of theory in which monarchy rode tilt against democracy, in which oligarchy would have built for itself strongholds of privilege, and in which tyranny sought opportunity to make good its claim to receive submission from all competitors. Amidst this high warfare of principles, administration could command no pause for its own consideration. The question was always: Who shall make law, and what shall that law be? The other question, how law should be administered with enlightenment, with equity, with speed, and without friction, was put aside as “practical detail” which clerks could arrange after doctors had agreed upon principles.

That political philosophy took this direction was of course no accident, no chance preference or perverse whim of political philosophers. The philosophy of any time is, as Hegel says, “nothing but the spirit of that time expressed in abstract thought”; and political philosophy, like philosophy of every other kind, has only held up the mirror to contemporary affairs. The trouble in early times was almost altogether about the constitution of government; and consequently that was what engrossed men’s thoughts. There was little or no trouble about administration,—at least little that was heeded by administrators. The functions of government were simple, because life itself was simple. Government went about imperatively and compelled men, without thought of consulting their wishes. There was no complex system of public revenues and public debts to puzzle financiers; there were, consequently, no financiers to be puzzled. No one who possessed power was long at a loss how to use it. The great and only question was: Who shall possess it? Populations were of manageable numbers; property was of simple sorts. There were plenty of farms, but no stocks and bonds: more cattle than vested interests.

I have said that all this was true of “early times”; but it was substantially true also of comparatively late times. One does not have to look back of the last century for the beginnings of the present complexities of trade and perplexities of commercial speculation, nor for the portentous birth of national debts. Good Queen Bess, doubtless, thought that the monopolies of the sixteenth century were hard enough to handle without burning her hands; but they are not remembered in the presence of the giant monopolies of the nineteenth century. When Blackstone lamented that corporations had no bodies to be kicked and no souls to be damned, he was anticipating the proper time for such regrets by a full century. The perennial discords between master and workmen which now so often disturb industrial society began before the Black Death and the Statute of Laborers; but never before our own day did they assume such ominous proportions as they wear now. In brief, if difficulties of governmental action are to be seen gathering in other centuries, they are to be seen culminating in our own.

This is the reason why administrative tasks have nowadays to be so studiously and systematically adjusted to carefully tested standards of policy, the reason why we are having now what we never had before, a science of administration. The weightier debates of constitutional principle are even yet by no means concluded; but they are no longer of more immediate practical moment than questions of administration. It is getting to be harder to run a constitution than to frame one.

Here is Mr. Bagehot’s graphic, whimsical way of depicting the difference between the old and the new in administration:

In early times, when a despot wishes to govern a distant province, he sends down a satrap on a grand horse, and other people on little horses; and very little is heard of the satrap again unless he send back some of the little people to tell what he has been doing. No great labour of superintendence is possible. Common rumour and casual report are the sources of intelligence. If it seems certain that the province is in a bad state, satrap No. I is recalled, and satrap No. 2 sent out in his stead. In civilized countries the process is different. You erect a bureau in the province you want to govern; you make it write letters and copy letters; it sends home eight reports per diem to the head bureau in St. Petersburg. Nobody does a sum in the province without some one doing the same sum in the capital, to “check” him, and see that he does it correctly. The consequence of this is, to throw on the heads of departments an amount of reading and labour which can only be accomplished by the greatest natural aptitude, the most efficient training, the most firm and regular industry.

There is scarcely a single duty of government which was once simple which is not now complex; government once had but a few masters; it now has scores of masters. Majorities formerly only underwent government; they now conduct government. Where government once might follow the whims of a court, it must now follow the views of a nation.

And those views are steadily widening to new conceptions of state duty; so that, at the same time that the functions of government are everyday becoming more complex and difficult, they are also vastly multiplying in number. Administration is everywhere putting its hands to new undertakings. The utility, cheapness, and success of the government’s postal service, for instance, point towards the early establishment of governmental control of the telegraph system. Or, even if our government is not to follow the lead of the governments of Europe in buying or building both telegraph and railroad lines, no one can doubt that in some way it must make itself master of masterful corporations. The creation of national commissioners of railroads, in addition to the older state commissions, involves a very important and delicate extension of administrative functions. Whatever hold of authority state or federal governments are to take upon corporations, there must follow cares and responsibilities which will require not a little wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Such things must be studied in order to be well done. And these, as I have said, are only a few of the doors which are being opened to offices of government. The idea of the state and the consequent ideal of its duty are undergoing noteworthy change; and “the idea of the state is the conscience of administration.” Seeing every day new things which the state ought to do, the next thing is to see clearly how it ought to do them.

This is why there should be a science of administration which shall seek to straighten the paths of government, to make its business less unbusinesslike, to strengthen and purify its organization, and to crown its duties with dutifulness. This is one reason why there is such a science.

But where has this science grown up? Surely not on this side the sea. Not much impartial scientific method is to be discerned in our administrative practices. The poisonous atmosphere of city government, the crooked secrets of state administration, the confusion, sinecurism, and corruption ever and again discovered in the bureaux at Washington forbid us to believe that any clear conceptions of what constitutes good administration are as yet very widely current in the United States. No; American writers have hitherto taken no very important part in the advancement of this science. It has found its doctors in Europe. It is not of our making; it is a foreign science, speaking very little of the language of English or American principle. It employs only foreign tongues; it utters none but what are to our minds alien ideas. Its aims, its examples, its conditions, are almost exclusively grounded in the histories of foreign races, in the precedents of foreign systems, in the lessons of foreign revolutions. It has been developed by French and German professors, and is consequently in all parts adapted to the needs of a compact state, and made to fit highly centralized forms of government; whereas, to answer our purposes, it must be adapted, not to a simple and compact, but to a complex and multiform state, and made to fit highly decentralized forms of government. If we would employ it, we must Americanize it, and that not formally, in language merely, but radically, in thought, principle, and aim as well. It must learn our constitutions by heart; must get the bureaucratic fever out of its veins; must inhale much free American air.

If an explanation be sought why a science manifestly so susceptible of being made useful to all governments alike should have received attention first in Europe, where government has long been a monopoly, rather than in England or the United States, where government has long been a common franchise, the reason will doubtless be found to be twofold: first, that in Europe, just because government was independent of popular assent, there was more governing to be done; and, second, that the desire to keep government a monopoly made the monopolists interested in discovering the least irritating means of governing. They were, besides, few enough to adopt means promptly.

It will be instructive to look into this matter a little more closely. In speaking of European governments I do not, of course, include England. She has not refused to change with the times. She has simply tempered the severity of the transition from a polity of aristocratic privilege to a system of democratic power by slow measures of constitutional reform which, without preventing revolution, has confined it to paths of peace. But the countries of the continent for a long time desperately struggled against all change, and would have diverted revolution by softening the asperities of absolute government. They sought so to perfect their machinery as to destroy all wearing friction, so to sweeten their methods with consideration for the interests of the governed as to placate all hindering hatred, and so assiduously and opportunely to offer their aid to all classes of undertakings as to render themselves indispensable to the industrious. They did at last give the people constitutions and the franchise; but even after that they obtained leave to continue despotic by becoming paternal. They made themselves too efficient to be dispensed with, too smoothly operative to be noticed, too enlightened to be inconsiderately questioned, too benevolent to be suspected, too powerful to be coped with. All this has required study; and they have closely studied it.

On this side the sea we, the while, had known no great difficulties of government. With a new country in which there was room and remunerative employment for everybody, with liberal principles of government and unlimited skill in practical politics, we were long exempted from the need of being anxiously careful about plans and methods of administration. We have naturally been slow to see the use or significance of those many volumes of learned research and painstaking examination into the ways and means of conducting government which the presses of Europe have been sending to our libraries. Like a lusty child, government with us has expanded in nature and grown great in stature, but has also become awkward in movement. The vigor and increase of its life has been altogether out of proportion to its skill in living. It has gained strength, but it has not acquired deportment. Great, therefore, as has been our advantage over the countries of Europe in point of ease and health of constitutional development, now that the time for more careful administrative adjustments and larger administrative knowledge has come to us, we are at a signal disadvantage as compared with the transatlantic nations; and this for reasons which I shall try to make clear.

Judging by the constitutional histories of the chief nations of the modern world, there may be said to be three periods of growth through which government has passed in all the most highly developed of existing systems, and through which it promises to pass in all the rest. The first of these periods is that of absolute rulers, and of an administrative system adapted to absolute rule; the second is that in which constitutions are framed to do away with absolute rulers and substitute popular control, and in which administration is neglected for these higher concerns; and the third is that in which the sovereign people undertake to develop administration under this new constitution which has brought them into power.

Those governments are now in the lead in administrative practice which had rulers still absolute but also enlightened when those modern days of political illumination came in which it was made evident to all but the blind that governors are properly only the servants of the governed. In such governments administration has been organized to subserve the general weal with the simplicity and effectiveness vouchsafed only to the undertakings of a single will.

Such was the case in Prussia, for instance, where administration has been most studied and most nearly perfected. Frederic the Great, stern and masterful as was his rule, still sincerely professed to regard himself as only the chief servant of the state, to consider his great office a public trust; and it was he who, building upon the foundations laid by his father, began to organize the public service of Prussia as in very earnest a service of the public. His no less absolute successor, Frederic William III, under the inspiration of Stein, again, in his turn, advanced the work still further, planning many of the broader structural features which give firmness and form to Prussian administration to-day. Almost the whole of the admirable system has been developed by kingly initiative.

Of similar origin was the practice, if not the plan, of modern French administration, with its symmetrical divisions of territory and its orderly gradations of office. The days of the Revolution of the Constituent Assembly were days of constitution-writing, but they can hardly be called days of constitution-making. The revolution heralded a period of constitutional development,—the entrance of France upon the second of those periods which I have enumerated,—but it did not itself inaugurate such a period. It interrupted and unsettled absolutism, but it did not destroy it. Napoleon succeeded the monarchs of France, to exercise a power as unrestricted as they had ever possessed.

The recasting of French administration by Napoleon is, therefore, my second example of the perfecting of civil machinery by the single will of an absolute ruler before the dawn of a constitutional era. No corporate, popular will could ever have effected arrangements such as those which Napoleon commanded. Arrangements so simple at the expense of local prejudice, so logical in their indifference to popular choice, might be decreed by a Constituent Assembly, but could be established only by the unlimited authority of a despot. The system of the year VIII was ruthlessly thorough and heartlessly perfect. It was, besides, in large part, a return to the despotism that had been overthrown.

Among those nations, on the other hand, which entered upon a season of constitution-making and popular reform before administration had received the impress of liberal principle, administrative improvement has been tardy and half-done. Once a nation has embarked in the business of manufacturing constitutions, it finds it exceedingly difficult to close out that business and open for the public a bureau of skilled, economical administration. There seems to be no end to the tinkering of constitutions. Your ordinary constitution will last you hardly ten years without repairs or additions; and the time for administrative detail comes late.

Here, of course, our examples are England and our own country. In the days of the Angevin kings, before constitutional life had taken root in the Great Charter, legal and administrative reforms began to proceed with sense and vigor under the impulse of Henry II’s shrewd, busy, pushing, indomitable spirit and purpose; and kingly initiative seemed destined in England, as elsewhere, to shape governmental growth at its will. But impulsive, errant Richard and weak, despicable John were not the men to carry out such schemes as their father’s. Administrative development gave place in their reigns to constitutional struggles; and Parliament became king before any English monarch had had the practical genius or the enlightened conscience to devise just and lasting forms for the civil service of the state.

The English race, consequently, has long and successfully studied the art of curbing executive power to the constant neglect of the art of perfecting executive methods. It has exercised itself much more in controlling than in energizing government. It has been more concerned to render government just and moderate than to make it facile, well-ordered, and effective. English and American political history has been a history, not of administrative development, but of legislative oversight,—not of progress in governmental organization, but of advance in law-making and political criticism. Consequently, we have reached a time when administrative study and creation are imperatively necessary to the well-being of our governments saddled with the habits of a long period of constitution-making. That period has practically closed, so far as the establishment of essential principles is concerned, but we cannot shake off its atmosphere. We go on criticizing when we ought to be creating. We have reached the third of the periods I have mentioned,—the period, namely, when the people have to develop administration in accordance with the constitutions they won for themselves in a previous period of struggle with absolute power; but we are not prepared for the tasks of the new period.

Such an explanation seems to afford the only escape from blank astonishment at the fact that, in spite of our vast advantages in point of political liberty, and above all in point of practical political skill and sagacity, so many nations are ahead of us in administrative organization and administrative skill. Why, for instance, have we but just begun purifying a civil service which was rotten full fifty years ago? To say that slavery diverted us is but to repeat what I have said-that flaws in our constitution delayed us.

Of course all reasonable preference would declare for this English and American course of politics rather than for that of any European country. We should
not like to have had Prussia’s history for the sake of having Prussia’s administrative skill; and Prussia’s particular system of administration would quite suffocate us. It is better to be untrained and free than to be servile and systematic. Still there is no denying that it would be better yet to be both free in spirit and proficient in practice. It is this even more reasonable preference which impels us to discover what there may be to hinder or delay us in naturalizing this much-to-be-desired science of administration.

What, then, is there to prevent?

Well, principally, popular sovereignty. It is harder for democracy to organize administration than for monarchy. The very completeness of our most cherished political successes in the past embarrasses us. We have enthroned public opinion; and it is forbidden us to hope during its reign for any quick schooling of the sovereign in executive expertness or in the conditions of perfect functional balance in government. The very fact that we have realized popular rule in its fullness has made the task of organizing that rule just so much the more difficult. In order to make any advance at all we must instruct and persuade a multitudinous monarch called public opinion,—a much less feasible undertaking than to influence a single monarch called a king. An individual sovereign will adopt a simple plan and carry it out directly: he will have but one opinion, and he will embody that one opinion in one command. But this other sovereign, the people, will have a score of differing opinions. They can agree upon nothing simple: advance must be made through compromise, by a compounding of differences, by a trimming of plans and a suppression of too straightforward principles. There will be a succession of resolves running through a course of years, a dropping fire of commands running through the whole gamut of modifications.

In government, as in virtue, the hardest of things is to make progress. Formerly the reason for this was that the single person who was sovereign was generally either selfish, ignorant, timid, or a fool,—albeit there was now and again one who was wise. Nowadays the reason is that the many, the people, who are sovereign have no single ear which one can approach, and are selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish with the selfishness, the ignorances, the stubbornnesses, the timidities, or the follies of several thousand persons,—albeit there are hundreds who are wise. Once the advantage of the reformer was that the sovereign’s mind had a definite locality, that it was contained in one man’s head, and that consequently it could be gotten at; though it was his disadvantage that the mind learned only reluctantly or only in small quantities, or was under the influence of some one who let it learn only the wrong things. Now, on the contrary, the reformer is bewildered by the fact that the sovereign’s mind has no definite locality, but is contained in a voting majority of several million heads; and embarrassed by the fact that the mind of this sovereign also is under the influence of favorites, who are none the less favorites in a good old-fashioned sense of the word because they are not persons by preconceived opinions; i.e., prejudices which are not to be reasoned with because they are not the children of reason.

Wherever regard for public opinion is a first principle of government, practical reform must be slow and all reform must be full of compromises. For wherever public opinion exists it must rule. This is now an axiom half the world over, and will presently come to be believed even in Russia. Whoever would effect a change in a modern constitutional government must first educate his fellow-citizens to want some change. That done, he must persuade them to want the particular change he wants. He must first make public opinion willing to listen and then see to it that it listen to the right things. He must stir it up to search for an opinion, and then manage to put the right opinion in its way.

The first step is not less difficult than the second. With opinions, possession is more than nine points of the law. It is next to impossible to dislodge them. Institutions which one generation regards as only a makeshift approximation to the realization of a principle, the next generation honors as the nearest possible approximation to that principle, and the next worships the principle itself. It takes scarcely three generations for the apotheosis. The grandson accepts his grandfather’s hesitating experiment as an integral part of the fixed constitution of nature.

Even if we had clear insight into all the political past, and could form out of perfectly instructed heads a few steady, infallible, placidly wise maxims of government into which all sound political doctrine would be ultimately resolvable, would the country act on them? That is the question. The bulk of mankind is rigidly unphilosophical, and nowadays the bulk of mankind votes. A truth must become not only plain but also commonplace before it will be seen by the people who go to their work very early in the morning; and not to act upon it must involve great and pinching inconveniences before these same people will make up their minds to act upon it.

And where is this unphilosophical bulk of mankind more multifarious in its composition than in the United States? To know the public mind of this country, one must know the mind, not of Americans of the older stocks only, but also of Irishmen, of Germans, of negroes. In order to get a footing for new doctrine, one must influence minds cast in every mould of race, minds inheriting every bias of environment, warped by the histories of a score of different nations, warmed or chilled, closed or expanded by almost every climate of the globe.

So much, then, for the history of the study of administration, and the peculiarly difficult conditions under which, entering upon it when we do, we must undertake it. What, now, is the subject-matter of this study, and what are its characteristic objects?

Woodrow Wilson on Administration   1 comment

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856, in Staunton, Virginia. His father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson (1822-1903), was a Presbyterian minister, and his mother, Janet Woodrow Wilson (1826-1888), was a minister’s daughter and originally from England.  Wilson’s parents moved to the South in 1851, owned house slaves and identified themselves with the culture and political values of the South. Joseph Wilson was a theologian, defended slavery and soon emerged as a leader of the Southern Presbyterian Church and an avid supporter of the Confederacy. His family, northerners who were active in antislavery Whig and Republican politics, ostracized Joseph for his pro-slavery stances. He later became a chaplain for the Confederate army and used his church as a hospital for the wounded.

Thus, Tommy Wilson, as he was called growing up, spent his childhood and teen years in August, George and Columbia, South Carolina, during the Civil War and Reconstruction. He saw the humiliation and economic ruin and shame that the loser of a war experiences and well-knew the hatred that grows from that. He also saw the rampant corruption during Reconstruction. Those formative experiences had a lot to do with Wilson’s later policies.

Wilson studied at Davison College in North Carolina in 1873-1874 and at Princeton University from 1875 to 1879. An exceptional student who excelled in debate and politics, there was family pressure to become a minister. Wilson greatly admired the British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone, a progressive Christian politician. Wilson saw politics – the use of power for the sake of principles or moral goals — as a divine vocation of Christian service.

 “The key to success in politics [is] the pursuit of Perfection through hard work and the fulfillment of ideals.”

Wilson felt that politics would allow him to spread spiritual enlightenment to the American people. Does that sound familiar? Yes, it’s one of the talking points of the liberal Democrats.

Wilson’s senior thesis “Cabinet Government in the United States” was published by the Princetonian, of which he was the editor. The essay stressed the superior qualities of the British cabinet system and said it ought to be tried in the United States. Graduating from Princeton in 1879, he studied law at the University of Virginia. He was admitted to the bar in 1882 and practiced in Atlanta. Finding the practice of law boring, he entered John Hopkins University’s graduate program where he studied government and history, taking a PhD in 1885. Wilson was the only president to have earned a PhD.

Wilson married Ellen Axson in 1885, a southern minister’s daughter. They had three daughters before Ellen died of kidney disease in 1914 during Wilson’s first term. Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt, a DC widow, in 1915. And, yes, that last name seems awfully coincidental to me.

When Woodrow Wilson was a professor at Bryn Mawr College he proposed the revolutionary argument for a professional centralized administration in the United States. Introducing a novel distinction between politics and administration, Wilson demanded a bureaucracy that would govern independently from the elected branches of government.

Whoa! Yeah – the administrative state. It wasn’t a novel or new concept. Europe had been operating under the administrative state for a long time. France and Germany had huge bureaucracies that did the real business of government while politicians debated and made suggestions to the bureaucrats, who largely ignored them. That ought to sound familiar too.

Wilson, like most of the nascent ruling class that were gathering at the resort towns of  the Eastern seaboard during the 1880 through the 1920s, held certain views of humanity and their own superiority to rule. The people were, by and large, grubby Neanderthals who had no idea what was good for them, in Wilson’s view. I’m going to post the essay in full, but broken into the three parts that Wilson arranged and then discuss the parts that seem most important because they are the seeds of our current governmental circumstances.

The essay was published in the Political Science Quarterly in July 1887, advocating for a trained bureaucracy that has the expertise and will to oppose popular opinion when they deem it necessary. Arguing that expertise is a title to rule, Wilson set aside the founding principles that legitimate government is based on the consent of the governed and separation of powers in favor of the emerging new science of governance by administration.

Why I am Registered Non-Partisan   Leave a comment

I’ve said repeatedly that I am a nonpartisan, so you are unlikely to get a lot of party rhetoric from me. I don’t follow GOP insider news, but I heard this on the radio a while back and researched it, then Don over at Rio del Norte Line asked me something about the Alaska GOP. This story is indicative of why I am a nonpartisan and why I think conservatives are not very bright in continuing their attachment to the Republican Party. This scenario is being played out around the nation, wherever conservatives have tried to move the Republican Party back to the principles of the majority of GOP members. The battle is far from lost, but in Alaska, the “old guard” is winning because they have the resources.

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130409/alaska-gop-drama-results-chairwomans-ouster

The fact is that the GOP “old guard” has its own, more or less moderate progressive vision for the State of Alaska while conservatives have a fiscally responsible, smaller government vision for it. Who is in the majority? I don’t know. I’m not a GOP member, so don’t rub elbows with the precincts, but I would note that a “tea party” candidate whipped Lisa Murkowski’s hind end in the largest GOP primary turnout in state history (2010), which indicates an awful lot of people who vote in the GOP primaries favored the conservative candidate. Although the GOP leadership endorsed Joe Miller, their support was half-hearted at best and he lost in a squeaker against the better funded write-in candidate, Lisa Murkowski. I can’t say for sure there were shenanigans going on, but it felt Chicago-like.

I know nothing about Debbie Brown other than she replaced Russ Millett who was never even seated. That’s the bigger story, because Russ Millett was elected by the party at the state convention, but the “old guard” refused to acknowledge him. You will also note in this story in the Alaska Dispatch how dismissive the reporter is toward Millett and supportive of the “leadership of the GOP.

How anyone with principles can think that the Alaska GOP represents the Alaskan people’s interests is beyond me!

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130403/castoff-millette-going-after-alaska-gop-over-misappropriation-funds

For a more balanced story, I’ve included a link to a small press that’s doing great Alaska coverage – the Alaska Native News – and the story on this that ran in the Anchorage Daily News.

http://alaska-native-news.com/political_news/7687-alaska-s-republican-party-ousts-incoming-chairman-russ-millette.html

http://www.adn.com/2013/01/31/2772735/republicans-to-resume-leadership.html

I’m hoping Alaskan conservatives – many of whom are like me and are registered non-partisan/undeclared – will read this and recognize that we need to make some major changes in this state.

This is the latest news on the GOP wrangling.

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130501/who-supports-latest-alaska-republican-party-chairman

As I said, as a non-partisan, this is why I will like be voting third-party in next year’s elections. Joe Miller has filed to run against Democrat Mark Begich, but he has to get through the primary and Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell has indicated that he might also be running. They’re both conservatives; Treadwell is more likable and less likely to get comfortable in DC – I know Joe personally and I’ve met Mead and liked him, so I’d probably vote for Treadwell, but I suspect neither of them will make it through the GOP primary if the current GOP leadership is in power. They have their anointed and it isn’t conservatives.

Alaska’s ruling class has always been progressive Republicans. The rest of us here are much more conservative, but because we vote Republican we’ve given these people a great deal of power that they are unwilling to give up. They resist regime change like all good ruling classes and the attempts to foment revolution through party politics are apparently failing.

Besides, I like the idea of sending an Alaska Independence Party candidate to Washington DC. In a state where 58% of registered voters are non-partisan/undeclared, third-parties have a great chance of actually winning. And, I would love to see what an AIP member would do and say in DC. Ted Cruz could use some company.

IRS Scandal Equivalent of Jay Walking   Leave a comment

It’s a good point that needs to be pointed out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1d_yT0ScP8&goback=%2Egde_4761014_member_245819928

The IRS targeting of conservative groups is small potatoes compared to the assault on liberty that has occurred all across the country since the institution of the Patriot Act. I’m not saying it’s trivial. A burglary at a hotel brought down a bad president in the 1970s. The IRS scandal is a symptom of a much larger problem. The administration protects the big scandals, but the little ones get out and they should be red flags that there is way more being protected than any of us realize.

Global Warming Nerves   Leave a comment

The global-warming crowd is a little getting nervous. Why? Because this was a cold, long winter in many parts of the world and it’s hard to sell anthropomorphic

http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/professor-disputes-whether-new-nenana-ice-classic-record-set/article_06b291b2-c2b6-11e2-a622-001a4bcf6878.html

Here in Alaska, we bet on the date the Tanana River ice will go out. What can I tell you? Small isolated community with a lot of frozen rivers. In the early part of the 20th century, what else were we going to do with our time and the considerable amount of gold dust some of the miners had stashed? For as little as $2.50 for a single ticket, you can win in excess of $300,000, depending on how many tickets were sold. It’s not Powerball, but it’s our own little funky contest and in a state where gambling is not legal, it’s about the only time any of us get to place a bet without committing a misdemeanor. Technically, it is not a game of chance because there is science involved in figuring out when the ice goes out.

This is the latest the Tanana River has gone out in the history of the Ice Classic … one day later than in the very cold year of 1964 (the year my mom won a bar pool on the Classic). It was the coldest winter since 1971. April 2013 was the snowiest April on record. The trees haven’t budded yet, a good two weeks later than any year in my memory. The Denali Highway keeps drifting in with snow as soon as the road crews clear it.

I understand this is a trend. The northern states of the United States experienced a bitterly cold and late winter and Europe saw a similar pattern. On average, this March was 13 degrees colder than last year. On the other hand, the Arctic sea ice is definitely declining and is at the fifth lowest extent in recorded history, and Greenland has experienced dramatic melting as well. Paradoxically, Antarctica’s ice sheet reached its highest extent on record in 2012, but scientists say the ice there is changing. I would note that polar region research is still in its infancy, so the meaning of these observations has yet to be determined.

Which is my point. After 20 years of warming trend, Alaska has seen three winters in a row in line with historical weather trends – the cold I knew as a kid is back. Now, this summer is looking to be a chill one, which was NOT the pattern when I was a kid. We had warm, even hot summers, in Interior Alaska.

But, if you’ve made a career out of global warming, this spring will make you cranky. Professor of forest ecology Glenn Judy was there to shut down logging in Oregon to protect the spotted owl who were falling prey to a larger, more efficient owl species. Now he lives in Alaska to nag us about what he sees as our wanton ways. But, if the weather is returning to normal, what’s he going to do for a living? So, let’s insist that the Weather Service and commonsense Alaskans with decades of Alaskan experience are confused by calendar dates and that we really don’t know what we’re observing.

Another ruling-class elitist who wants to insist that he and his know more than the rest of us. We’re scientists; we’re experts. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Your observations are merely the confused ramblings of poorly educated people who mistakenly think you are able to think for yourselves. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! We will control all that you see and hear! The ice is melting, the temperatures are going up. You’re cold and it’s snowing in May? Here, put on a woolen burqa to protect you from the sun’s rays. You’re hot now, aren’t you? See, global warming! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Putting Coal Miners Out of Work … for their own good?   2 comments

Mine worker safety is critically important which is why U.S. mining is constantly improving mining safety and has implemented CORESafety, a new safety and health management system that commits the industry to eliminating fatalities and reducing the mining injury rate by 50% within five years. However, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is imposing unneeded rules that are being implemented in unworkable time frames or removing responsibility from the miner.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/sep/18/west-virginia-miners-we-want-to-not-be-forgotten/?page=all

Imine rescue training checking equipment 2nd picture.jpg (2137 bytes)n 2011, the MSHA proposed a new rule for proximity detection systems for continuous miners (a large electric-powered machine that cuts the coal from a seam) to prevent miners from being run over, pinned, or crushed by the machinery. While the industry broadly supports the use of proximity detection technology, they warned MSHA the proposed implementation time line could jeopardize the device’s efficacy. Implementation must be carried out within 18 months of the rule’s publication, but Ernal Shaw, Safety Manager at Bowie Resources LLC, warned that implementing the rule would take at least 24 months. In comments submitted to MSHA, Alpha Natural Resources Vice President of Safety John Gallick emphasized the importance of red zone training and deeper and longer cuts to the mine to minimize injuries and fatalities.

Another rule regarding the examination of work areas in underground coal mines would change the duties of the mine examiner, a person hired by the mining company to identify hazardous conditions, by requiring examiners to identify health or safety standards violations. Superficially that sounds beneficial, but examiners do not receive the same training as inspectors, and the standard violations inspectors cite are much more particular than what an examiner should check. Changing the role of the mine examiner has the unintended consequence of detracting from the examiner’s core function of recognizing and preventing hazardous conditions. The MSHA recognized this in 1996 when it proposed a similar rule, noting, “Most hazards are violations of mandatory standards. Requiring the examiner to look for all violations regardless of whether they involve a distinct hazard could distract the examiner from the more important aspects of the examination.” The MSHA recently released the rule, but the agency should reconsider it and once again recognize that states have taken the lead on this issue and have different certification programs for examiners.

Another MSHA overreach is the proposed rule to reduce exposure to coal mine dust. Implementation of coal mine dust regulations to prevent pneumoconiosis (black lung) began in 1970 by setting a standard of 3.0 milligrams per cubic meter. The MSHA lowered the standard to 2.0 milligrams per cubic meter in 1973 and is now proposing to lower the standard to 1.0, claiming that cases of black lung are on the rise. The proposed rule also requires the use of the continuous personal dust monitor and relies on those devices to send data on dust exposure to MSHA. Yet contrary to the statutory requirement, MSHA does not use the best available science to justify the lower coal dust standard. A May 2011 study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine studied regional differences in increases in coal worker pneumoconiosis, the relationship to coal dust, and federal regulations implemented by MSHA. The study concluded that increases in pneumoconiosis were not explained by dust exposure, but likely by mine size and low-seam mining (coal mines with a seam of 1.2 meters or less). It emphasized the need for more study to identify the contributing factors to pneumoconiosis. Furthermore, continuous personal dust monitors can reliably measure relative differences in dust exposure, but should not be used to determine numeric compliance with any federal regulation.

The MSHA issues patterns of violation (POV) for mines that have persistent health and safety violations. Such an issuance typically shuts down the entire mine. MSHA’s proposed rule for POV takes a “guilty-until-proven-innocent” approach by basing the decision on violations issued. The proposed rule also removes the provision in which MSHA warns a mining operation before issuing a POV and does not provide a way for operators to avoid a POV issuance. The MSHA’s main reason for the rule is to remove the backlog of contested violations before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, much of it the result of MSHA issuing more violations.

Coal miners rely on the work that coal mines provide. Few have the education necessary to find jobs in the environmental harassment field, so they have to work at the jobs available in their communities. What jobs will replace coal mining if the mines are shut down because of confusing and increasingly restrictive mining regulations? As the article I posted in the beginning of this post shows, coal miners know that they are in a dangerous profession, but they are paid well for it and they’re willing to take the risks to support their families. If the mines are closed to protect the miners, who feeds the miners family?

And, no, the government will do it is not an answer because:

1) the government doesn’t have enough money to take care of all the people who are unemployed now

2) coal miners shouldn’t have to give up their dignity in order to feel their families.

Mine safety is a critical concern, but rather than allow mines to use their money to improve mine safety, that money more often goes to trying to document safety so as not to shut down, taking money away from the actual technologies and training that would improve mine safety.

Shuttering Coal Mines   Leave a comment

The attack on coal reaches well beyond power plant construction and operation. Although not a new problem, starting new coal mining operations or expanding existing operations has become increasingly difficult. Coal mining operations are subject to 10 federal environmental laws plus state requirements and regulations. Furthermore, environmental regulations have been implemented in extreme, subjective, and contradictory ways that delay and restrict access to critical energy sources, preventing the creation of new jobs, destroying existing jobs, and providing little to no environmental benefit.

coal miner photo: My coal Miner mycoalminerLargeWebview.jpgUnder Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps of Engineers administers permits for activities including coal mining that discharge dredge or fill material into U.S. waters and wetlands. The EPA also reviews, comments, and can veto the permit application. The EPA is abusing its ability to place holds on permit applications.

In an unprecedented move, in January 2011, the EPA revoked a water permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007 for a West Virginia mine. On October 6, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down those EPA procedures stating that the “EPA has expanded its role in the issuance of Section 404 permits and has thus exceeded the statutory authority afforded to it by the Clean Water Act.” On March 23, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the EPA’s attempt to retroactively veto the dredge-and-fill permit, allowing the people of Mingo Logan Coal to go back to work: “This attempt to withdraw the specification of discharge sites after a permit has been issued is unprecedented in the history of the Clean Water Act.” The court went on to find that the EPA interpretation of the rule was “unreasonable.”

These were important victories in reining in the EPA. Regrettably, environmental groups are urging the EPA to appeal and to continue to usurp the authority of the Army Corps of Engineers and states in issuing water quality permits, which creates uncertainty in the mining industry. The EPA held nearly 200 permit applications—many in the final stages of processing by the Army Corps—in a state of limbo and altered the permit requirements in violation of its authority under the Clean Water Act as determined by the courts.

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 plays an important role in protecting the environment from coal mining and reclaiming abandoned mined lands. It creates regulatory certainty and, for the most part, allows states to tailor regulatory requirements to their regional and local needs. However, proposed federal rules would fundamentally change the federal–state relationship. This is exactly what is occurring with the revised Stream Buffer Zone Rule. From 2003 to 2008, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) worked with the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a stream buffer rule to avoid mining activities near streams when possible and to use the best technology available to minimize sediments entering streams to protect fish, wildlife, and water quality. After two environmental impact statements and consideration of 43,000 public comments, the OSM published a final rule, which the Obama Administration attempted to summarily set aside without the required rulemaking procedure. The court ruled the Administration’s action violated the Administrative Procedure Act and OSM must either implement the rule as written or begin a new rulemaking process. The OSM chose to begin writing a new rule, which could significantly reduce coal mining in Appalachia, the Illinois Basin, the Gulf Region, and Alaska. According to the OSM’s own projections, the proposed rule could eliminate 10,749 jobs in Appalachia alone.

coal miner photo: Coal miner hpqscan0001.jpg

The new rule would impose additional permitting and reporting requirements and restrict various mining activities. The rewritten rule also has several serious problems. It only vaguely defines permit requirements, monitoring, and stream classifications, which it applies to both surface and underground mining. It removes flexibility in how companies reclaim mine sites, for instance by requiring reforestation even though wildlife organizations are working with the coal industry to provide grassland habitats for a wide range of species.

The rewritten rule ignores regional differences and the efficient state regulatory work that manages those differences. State and local agencies’ specific knowledge often enables them to tailor regulations to promote economic activity while protecting the habitat and environment. In September 2011, John Corra, director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, testified before the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee that his state has the necessary regulations in place for stream protection and reclamation. Thomas Clarke, director of the West Virginia Division of Mining and Reclamation in the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, echoed this sentiment:

The current OSM rulemaking will diminish the regulatory flexibility that states have in favor of national solutions dictated from Washington. West Virginia has been successful in addressing new issues as they arise, within SMCRA’s regulatory framework.

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