Jonah Goldberg

For understandable reasons, the IRS scandal has largely focused on the political question of whether the White House deliberately targeted opponents. To date there's no evidence that it did. That's good for the president, but it may not be good for the country, because if the administration didn't target opponents, that would mean the IRS has become corrupt all on its own.

In 1939, Bruno Rizzi, a largely forgotten communist intellectual, wrote a hugely controversial book, "The Bureaucratization of the World." Rizzi argued that the Soviet Union wasn't communist. Rather, it represented a new kind of system, what Rizzi called "bureaucratic collectivism." What the Soviets had done was get rid of the capitalist and aristocratic ruling classes and replace them with a new, equally self-interested ruling class: bureaucrats.

The book wasn't widely read, but it did reach Bolshevik theoretician Leon Trotsky, who attacked it passionately. Trotsky's response, in turn, inspired James Burnham, who used many of Rizzi's ideas in his own 1941 book, "The Managerial Revolution," in which Burnham argued that something similar was happening in the West. A new class of bureaucrats, educators, technicians, regulators, social workers and corporate directors who worked in tandem with government were re-engineering society for their own benefit. "The Managerial Revolution" was a major influence on George Orwell's "1984."

Now I don't believe we are becoming anything like 1930s Russia, never mind a real-life "1984." But this idea that bureaucrats -- very broadly defined -- can become their own class bent on protecting their interests at the expense of the public seems not only plausible but obviously true.

The evidence is everywhere. Every day it seems there's another story about teachers unions using their stranglehold on public schools to reward themselves at the expense of children. School choice programs and even public charter schools are under vicious attack, not because they are bad at educating children but because they're good at it. Specifically, they are good at it because they don't have to abide by rules aimed at protecting government workers at the expense of students.

The Veterans Affairs scandal can be boiled down to the fact that VA employees are the agency's most important constituency. The Phoenix VA health-care system created secret waiting lists where patients languished and even died, while the administrator paid out almost $10 million in bonuses to VA employees over the last three years.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.