The Public Interest

Are Bureaucrats to Blame?

R. Shep Melnick

Summer 1991

NOT TOO MANY years ago conservatives warned that increasing the federal government’s responsibilities would create a huge, arbitrary, and essentially autonomous national bureaucracy that could crush individual liberty. Max Weber’s predictions about the dominance of bureaucracy in modern life and Tocqueville’s warnings of a “soft” administrative despotism added substantial weight to these charges. Indeed, over the past twenty years the left has become at least as suspicious of bureaucratic power as the right. Few elements of American political culture are as well entrenched as fear and loathing of bureaucracy.

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