Bereaucratic Deaths

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The Periodical Observer




Congressional reform activists make clear their opinion of legislators at a 1996 Capitol Hill rally.


affairs—and this includes the public itself. As one focus group participant put it: "We have avenues to contact our representatives; we just choose not to."

Americans, Hibbing believes, desire a managerial Congress that will look after the public welfare so the public doesn’t have to. Many seem to think that every political problem has a commonsense solution, blocked only by the influence of special interests.

That is the key to the public’s discontent. Many Americans are convinced that legislators act primarily for their own benefit, perhaps to line their own pockets and certainly to ensure their reelection. Surveys demonstrate that Americans "are too cynical to believe that any individual who is granted decision-making power will be able to resist the occasional self-serving act." The Supreme Court, on the other hand, consistently ranks as the most respected branch of the federal government because people believe that "the justices do not benefit materially from the decisions they make."

If Hibbing is correct, restoring faith in Congress may prove more difficult than previously imagined. He favors campaign finance reform, term limits, lower congressional salaries, and a "firewall" between legislators and special-interest lobbies, but he is not optimistic that such measures will help much. As long as Americans interpret even honest political disagreements on Capitol Hill in the worst possible light, the public’s faith will be perpetually undermined.




Bureaucratic Deaths

"The Politics of Agency Termination: Confronting the Myth of Agency Immortality" by David E. Lewis, in The Journal of Politics (Feb. 2002), Blackwell Publishers, 350 Main St., Malden, Mass. 02148.


Even partisans of activist government tend to assume that once created, a federal agency is forever. Witness the departments of education and energy, still standing despite countless Republican vows to abolish them. But Lewis, a political scientist at Virginia’s College of William and Mary, says a careful look at the post-World War II record disproves the common belief.

Of the 426 administrative agencies established since 1946, he found, 251—or 59 percent—had ceased to exist by 1997. Among the dead: the Office of Technology Assessment and the National Biological Service, both


88 Wilson Quarterly

killed off in 1995 after Republicans took control of Congress. It’s true that many agencies simply saw their functions transferred to other organizations. The Council on Economic Policy, born in 1973, was absorbed by something called the Economic Policy Board only a year later. Even so, Lewis says, it appears that "bureaucratic structure may be more malleable" than hitherto supposed. Smaller agencies and ones created by executive order rather than by statute were more likely to vanish. The death toll more than doubles during wartime.

Public servants in a targeted agency have good reason to worry when the White House or Congress passes into unfriendly hands, says Lewis. "Agencies that encounter a president from the opposite party of the president that presided over their creation have a lower survival probability."


Foreign Policy & Defense




The Transatlantic Divide

"Power and Weakness" by Robert Kagan, in Policy Review (June–July 2002), 818 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Ste. 601, Washington, D.C. 20006; "Has History Restarted since September 11?" by Francis Fukuyama, at www.cis.org.au/Events/JBL/JBL02.htm, forthcoming as CIS Occasional Paper 81, Centre for Independent Studies, P.O. Box 92, St. Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.


Many Europeans are aghast these days at Washington’s apparent penchant for going it alone, whether on global warming, criminal justice, or Iraq. Americans, they charge, have a "cowboy" mentality, none more so than the conservative primitive now in the White House. In truth, however, argues Kagan, a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Europeans and Americans have come to look upon power—its efficacy, morality, and desirability—very differently. And the reasons for this gulf in strategic perspectives "are deep . . . and likely to endure."

"Europe is turning away from power," Kagan contends, to reside in "a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a posthistorical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s ‘Perpetual Peace.’ The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might."

The different strategic perspectives are not outgrowths of Americans’ and Europeans’ different national characters, he maintains. "When the United States was weak, it practiced the strategies of indirection, the strategies of weakness; now that the United States is powerful, it behaves as powerful nations do. When the European great powers were strong, they believed in strength and martial glory. Now, they see the world through the eyes of weaker powers." (Though European nations ceased to be global powers with World War II, he says, their military weakness was long masked by Europe’s geopolitical importance in the Cold War.) Europe’s new strategic outlook, with its emphasis on diplomacy, commerce, international law, and multilateralism, Kagan notes, also reflects "a conscious rejection of the European past, a rejection of the evils of European machtpolitik."

Having achieved in its postwar integration the "miracle" of getting the German "lion" to lie down with the French "lamb," Europe now wishes to export its "perpetual peace" to the rest of the world, Kagan says. But "America’s power, and its willingness to exercise that power—unilaterally if necessary"—stand in the way. Ironically, he points out, it is American power that has made Europe’s "new Kantian order" possible, and now sustains it.

While Kagan adds that America should show a " ‘decent respect for the opinion of mankind,’ " Fukuyama, the Johns Hopkins University scholar known for his "end of history" thesis, says that Kagan doesn’t seem to really mean it, in the sense of letting others help to define America’s foreign policy objectives. In Fukuyama’s view, a stronger dose of moderation is needed.


Autumn 2002 89



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