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Conservatives Must Be Good Bureaucrats?

The movement needs "people who will reliably advance a conservative vision of government."

Lewis Morris · Jun. 18, 2019

Conservatives often feel as if we’re getting nowhere in the fight to reduce the size and scope of government back to within constitutional bounds. We’re too often scoring small political victories here and there while the balance of power tilts inexorably to the Left. There’s definitely a sense in which conservatives are playing for fun while leftists are playing for keeps.

Lyman Stone at The Federalist suggests that one real problem for conservatives is a big one: “how to fill the innumerable appointments and support roles in modern government with people who will reliably advance a conservative vision of government.”

A maxim in life is that if you truly like doing something, then you will excel at it. You put in the time and effort, you care, and you are inspired by your work. Leftists love government and bureaucracy. They have a vested interest in maintaining government beyond its simple function to serve and protect society. They welcome any program, exploit, or endeavor that will increase its size and scope.

Conservatives don’t like or trust government. We see it as necessary in a world of fallible humans. As James Madison put it in Federalist 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” For this reason, conservatives are quite wary of the expanding bureaucracy that is the hallmark of modern times.

“This preference for philosophizing about government rather than learning to master government is a very real thing among some conservatives,” Stone points out (italics in original). “Everyone is arguing about philosophy of governance, yet there are no credible suggestions about what should actually be done, given that Republicans do actually control the presidency right now.”

Stone argues, “We need a Federalist Society-type organization to train young conservatives to become federal bureaucrats if we want to slay the Big Government leviathan.”

Indeed, the Federalist Society’s work in cultivating conservative talent in the legal field has been essential in President Donald Trump’s task to bring the federal judiciary back to the side of Rule of Law. Other conservative groups and think tanks have been effective at nudging judges to adopt more conservative positions and getting policy actors to embrace fiscally conservative policies. The same could arguably be true of the legislative branch, with the Club for Growth being an example of a group fighting the long fight for more conservative legislators.

Stone points out, though, that these efforts need to expand to the executive branch.

“We talk about the federal government as this overwhelming entity that tramples on rights and liberties and is far too powerful and vast, and then we send young people to fight the federal government armed with nothing but their summer reading list and a few weeks’ experience processing mailers,” says Stone. “If conservatives are serious about rolling back the administrative state, we need to be training socially conservative young people to have the skills necessary to step into the Department of Interior on day one of a new administration and actually make a difference.”

The best way to successfully contain the federal bureaucracy is to control the levers of power in the executive and legislative branch that enable it. At the same time, Stone makes a compelling case that conservatives must advance through the bureaucratic ranks and become more involved in the inner workings of government. To ignore this opportunity is to cede control of the government to the leftists.

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