Almost everything seems to be getting more specialized these days.
Television programs were once “broadcast,” sent out over the air and intended for a vast audience. In today’s 1,000 channel universe, producers “narrowcast,” trying to draw just a few million people to tailored programs about motorcycle maintenance or home design. Librarians are told they need to take an MLS degree to shelve books part-time. Doctors and attorneys focus on particular body parts and areas of law.
The trend is especially pronounced, though, when it comes to government administration.
The Founders aimed to limit government by diffusing it. Power would be shared among three federal branches. Further, “The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government are few and defined,” Madison wrote in Federalist 45. “Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite.” It should be difficult for this weak government to have much expertise.
Yet that model is being bypassed by events. As economist Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times in 2000, we are “living in the age of the central banker -- an era in which elected officials around the world have been persuaded to leave a key economic policy in the hands of unelected technocrats.” Krugman was writing about Japan, where such “expert” administration by technocrats has led to two decades of stagnation, with no growth in sight.
It’s easy to scoff that ingenious Americans would never allow technocrats to govern us. So try to explain how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac work. And why after their “collapse” in 2008 they got much bigger, to the point that they currently account for 90 percent of the mortgages issued. At least Enron had the good sense to disappear after its collapse. Congress doesn’t seem inclined to disband Fannie or Freddie.
There’s a lot of that going around.