Thought for the Day: The Meaning of the Administrative State

John Marini, writing with great prescience back in the 1980s in The Politics of Budget Control about how to think about the federal budget (mainly, not in terms of the money itself):

In America the administrative state traces its origins to the Progressive movement. Progressive leaders were hostile to the Constitution because it presupposed a limitation on the power of government. The executive budget system was among the most important political reforms demanded by Progressives. A presidential budget, along with party reform, would allow activist presidents the ability to pursue the interests of a national majority. Consequently, the United States was the last modern industrial nation to adopt an executive budget system. Congress was reluctant to give presidents the authority to formulate budgets, because it was thought such prerogative would undermine the separation of powers. Fifty years later, the move to increase the legislature’s power—and reduce the president’s control—over the budget, arose from the realization that the president [meaning Nixon and Reagan] and the national majority constituted the greatest threat to the continuation of an administrative bureaucracy committed to the achievement of social justice.

Hence the panic of the governing class when the American people elect the “wrong” person, like Nixon, Reagan, and Trump.

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