Policy Documents

How Bureaucrats Captured Government

John Steele Gordon –
June 20, 2013

In this essay in AEI's The American online magazine, the author contends that the inevitable result of employees who cannot be fired is, of course, a federal workforce that, feeling safe in their jobs, is not likely to overexert itself and is more prone to fall into corruption—as some employees of the IRS clearly have. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma estimates that over a seven-year period, the federal government lost 9,000 man-years of work due to employees who simply failed to show up to the office some days. The solution, obviously, is a much reformed, simplified, and faster process for dealing with incompetent, lazy, and corrupt employees. But like reforming the spoils system of the 19th century, which is a good deal easier said than done. As always with human affairs, self-interest rules.