death to experts, death to us

I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse (especially as I know most of you already agree with me), but I just came across an article in the New Republic about the disregard for expertise that’s seen throughout the Bush administration and felt as though I had to share it. I was particularly concerned, given Mike Brown’s pathetic performance at FEMA, to learn in the article that the Department of Homeland Security has more political appointees (with irrelevant experience) than almost any other department in the federal government. Here’s a clip:

…Mike Brown, the former FEMA director, is a college friend of Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh. Treasury employs former political hands but few top economists. The Coalition Provisional Authority, the agency tasked with governing and rebuilding Iraq, was largely a dumping ground for low-level Bush campaign officials. Meanwhile, as my colleague Spencer Ackerman has reported, the Bush administration insisted in 2002 that the Department of Homeland Security be exempt from having to stock its upper ranks largely with members of the Senior Executive Service–the elite cadre of civil servants who make the government’s machinery run smoothly–in order to give it more political appointments…

On top of that, as my colleague Franklin Foer has pointed out, conservatives don’t place much faith in experts–the people who, since the Progressive era, have largely manned bureaucracies. Modern conservatism tends to see social science as an attempt to couch liberal views in the language of objectivity.

Now, if you happen to think bureaucracies are structurally incapable of improving people’s lives, and if you have contempt for the kinds of people who reside in them, then you have two choices: You can either slash the bureaucracy and refund taxpayers’ money, or you can reconcile yourself to the existence of bureaucracy and run it as a patronage operation. (If, by definition, a bureaucracy can’t get any less competent, you might as well make appointments that benefit you personally or politically.)

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  1. dorothy
    Posted September 19, 2005 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    oh wow! i love it when there’s lots to read with my coffee!!! you’ve made my morning maark. i hate my new fucking keyboard—it’s too small and i keep typing extra letters.

  2. Posted September 19, 2005 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    What expertise?

    Before you can disregard it, you must first have some.

  3. Tony Buttons
    Posted September 19, 2005 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Mike Brown had a great deal of expertise, from I understand, in the judging of Arabian show horses.

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