If you want a sense of “deep state history”, read the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in all six volumes, written by Edward Gibbon in the 1780s. I have the one-volume condensed version, and in just reading that, knowing there are thousands more pages, it should humble you to just how little we know, or even can know, about the motives and machinations of the millions of the tiny little moving parts inside a complicated piece of political machinery like an ancient government that wasn’t even very keen on paperwork.
We learn that among human organizations even dull routine and sloth are as much moving parts that can bring about an organization’s ultimate demise as a superior leadership can grow it.
We all know this but history rarely writes it up that way. The “deep state” is almost never mentioned in history, yet from feeding an army on the march, to collecting taxes, to building pyramids, there had to be a deep state. Why the deep state is never mentioned is because it also wrote all the histories until the late 1700s. A “court historian” would be found among almost every lord’s staff, but who only wrote of the boss’s positive exploits. Never its dark underbelly.
More recent proof can be found in the demise of the Soviet empire in almost synchronous domino fashion in very short order in late 1991 and early 1992. Liberal Democrats blamed the Russian character, (HomoRuss), still others the Soviet system (HomoSovieticus) while far fewer mention HomoBureaucraticus, even though some observers were taking note of the drag the size of the apparatus was having on advancing the Communist system by the early 1930s.
It was prodigious.
Post 1992, after the new Russian State would replace the old Russian Republic (RFSFR), as well as all its other republics, i.e. Ukraine, and all the state assets had been consolidated under the control of several oligarchs by 1999, headed by Vladimir Putin, it’s unknown how much of the original Soviet deep state apparatus was allowed to stay on in these new governments. Knowing Russians, many of those who stayed on probably were part of the sludge in the Soviet engine that brought the empire down in the first place. With Russians you never know.
But did our deep state at State and Intel know? Did they even inquire? Ronald Reagan began to hasten the Soviet collapse in the 80s, so it should have been anticipated. Congress should have been briefed.
Even today, how many of the thousands of “desks” in the “Soviet section” of the CIA were actually lost once so much of their mission vanished into thin air after 1992, especially when there was actually some talk of Russia moving toward democracy. What a hit that would have put on those desks at Langley! Talk about “What the Agency would do if the Devil was actually saved?”
But I opened with Rome and not Russia because all my adult life I’d heard people say that America is going the same way as the Roman Empire. I have rejected that notion for at least 40 years. Simply stated, our origins, our design and our core ingredients, “our nature as a people” is different from those who created Rome. They were never like us. America is unlike any nation that ever existed.
Has anyone even noted that it took the Soviet system only 75 years to fail, while it took the Romans over 600, and European feudalism over 1000? China is closing in on 70 right today. This seems to be the outer limits for the modern ‘isms; Communism, Socialism and Fascism.
Has anyone inquired as to whether the almost insatiable appetite for keeping files on citizens, and controlling their every waking movements, has had anything to do with these shorter lifespans? The Chinese now keep their files on the cloud. But despite the ruthlessness of their rule, every arrest or kicked-in-door, even back-alley mugging by the 20th Century police state is covered by some written regulation buried inside their deep state. In Nazi Germany, the USSR and China. And apparently Eric Holder’s America.
I call them HomoBureaucraticus. Maybe today we could call it the HB-Virus.
This is America’s great threat, for while the American people are still free, and not like the Romans or any modern top-down state, we do have a deep state. See it laid out in the organization chart above.
But HomoBureaucraticus is not exactly people as we know them, but living, breathing organisms that act collectively, with one mind. They may be human at home, but collectively they act entirely by instinct, like thousands of nesting birds on a cliff.
And that instinct is never directed at the purpose for which they were created, but rather to preserve their unity and when possible, to grow.
This is their prime directive, and it’s as true in a 3-person front office at a dry cleaners as it is at Disney headquarters. (I’ll deal with the private sector last.)
Since this is America I’ve chosen our federal organization chart, laid out above. Most states and cities are very similar, as well as most modern corporations.
Just consider the relationship of Tier 3, the Deep State with the management tiers they answer to, above them, and the citizens who pay for them, in their eyes, beneath them, at Tier 4
* 1) The Chief Executive answers to the Constitution and the Laws of the nation, which are for all the people, but also to the people who elected him/her, who are much fewer, a little over half of those who bothered to vote. He/she also answers to the many who donated millions of dollars to get him/her elected over the others.
Then there’s also his/her belief system and conscience and his/her ambition (which can run the gamut from Love of Country to Greed and Power (with possibly even some consideration of God).
You can see the tug of war on a leader’s loyalties that are baked into the job, and which even can affect a dictator.
Elected legislators and the courts have the same job description.
* 2) The elected leader then appoints un-elected persons to administer all those blocks on the chart. The same rules of allegiance applies to them as they do the chief executive, and often an oath is even involved.
* 3) Finally there is the permanent work force about whom this analysis is about.
To accomplish the legal mandates of our chart, there are hundreds of thousands, from GS-3 clerk/typists to GS-15 senior analysts and supervisors who manage the several departmental missions, plus an army of field offices; inspectors, police, scientists, each with office staffs; paper, paper, and more paper. A mountain of information is passed between them daily that citizens (who pays their salaries and for whom they serve) will never see.
This is the deep state.
The Constitution actually provided a way by which the people could control the size, power, and “weight” of that bureaucracy that could only be created and maintained at the citizen’s expense.
* 4) Finally, there’s us, the citizens…on the receiving end of all these policies and who also pays for everything.
Every taxpayer/family measures the good or bad in state actions by the bureaucracy only as they affect to his/her own household. Citizens rarely view the deep state outside this vary limited form of contact.
This is one of the bureaucracies’ greatest natural law advantages: the citizen’s nearsightedness of the labyrinthine network of pass-thru’s a citizen must endure in order to speak with someone who can actually answer a question or address a complaint, combined with the peoples’ historic laziness to join together to squeeze the deep state’s elected overseers to remedy it.
Knowing this, the natural instinct of the deep state is to try to grow not only in size, but also in reach, based on how often it can fool or scare “citizens” into accepting some cost or inconvenience without recourse. To be able to get away with it.
There are only rare circumstances where the people can appeal directly to the deep state. Instead, they must rely on the deep state’s overseers, the legislature, who also, it seems, has become its illicit lover, a romance which, again, is in the deep state’s nature to seek out and nourish.
Since 1933, our deep state has been able to turn a few vines into a very large vineyard. And the cirizens, for as many different reasons as there are households, have had to grudgingly go along, often without being able to test the wine.
Today, our deep state is now the primary constituency of the elected political class while reciprocally the deep state is the legislator’s link to wealth far beyond that annual 6-figure paycheck the citizens pay them. So you can see how the cards are stacked against the taxpayers.
It’s been decades since anyone has been able to determine who in this relationship, is even on top. (Pardon the pun, since in every case it’s the citizens who are being screwed.)
Natural Law: The “prime directive” of HomoBureaucraticus is to always try to grow larger.
But the corollary is its parasitic HB-Virus kill switch which is instinctively hard-wired to always push the envelop to see how far it can grow.
If unchecked HomoBureaucraticus will always push the envelop to the point of failure. It’s what they can’t not do. As a parasite it will hold onto to the host organism, dying with it rather than voluntarily letting go.
More than one dynasty has collapsed because of a revolt by its deep state, only are rarely mentioned by history. Just such a coup has been attempted in America because a leader from the private sector has threatened a sitting bureaucracy at the core of its instincts.
The natural law of “private sector bureaucracies” are not so rigid.
The two major distinctions between a “privately owned” bureaucracy and a state bureaucracy is 1) if a private company sees a problem evolving he/she can proceed to fix it simply by weeding out the source of the problem by firing people. A reorganization, or general house-cleaning. Happens all the time. And 2) if its bureaucracy should kill it from within (actually common in small business) there is always other private companies who can step in to fill the vacuum. The larger animal population is not harmed.
This had always been a hallmark of the free market capitalist system.
But the past few decades has seen the rise of a different type of “publicly-held” corporation which more closely mirrors the organizational structure of government; with a distant front office separated by hundreds of organizational layers and thousands of apparatchiks between itself and the front lines, at the production end of the business, the factories, but often, also its stockholder/owners, let alone the public it sells its products to.
Of note, if you’ll recall my mention of the Alexander Hamilton multi-volume set of “Modern Business” from the 1950s, these modern corporate entities are often lacking traditional ethical constraints on the greed for money or power, which once was the hallmark of the American free market.
Finally, these corporations often have no fungible product, or, with modern marketing have successfully branded their product so that an increasingly undiscerning public will buy their product on “name” alone, thus allowing the corporation to reduce real value in its manufacture.
Once the “bottom line” outweighs all other considerations these kinds of corporations lean toward a kind of monopolistic view of the market, where a few corporations can control vast swaths of the market economy…
…and the source of their stability is by establishing a favorable relationship and protection from the government.
When there is no longer any legal, moral or ethical reason for them not to pursue this route, this is no longer capitalism but fascism.
So, the role of a deep state should effect the way we look at authoritarian regimes, as to whether they lean democratic, or totalitarian.
I’ll go back and revisit Jeanne Kirkpatrick next.