Garfield Died in Vain
The current regime in Washington is busy increasing the size of government, a plain statistical fact that gets missed sometimes because many of the new personnel work for contractors—in Iraq, we’re even hiring mercenaries—and because conservative rhetoric is anti-government. In fact, the Republicans only object to government power when it benefits people who don’t count. What gets featured as privatization is actually a mechanism for increasing the arbitrary power of the administration by vastly increasing the scope of political patronage. The civil service puts a damper on the freedom of action of political operators because career bureaucrats don’t serve at the pleasure of White House fixers and may harbor obstructionist professional ideals involving the public good and scientific objectivity. In contrast, no-bid contracts help your friends and screw your enemies at the expense of the people at large. A wonderful arrangement.
President Garfield was assassinated by a disappointed office seeker who belonged to Grant’s faction of the Republican party. His death put Roscoe Conkling, the Karl Rowe of the old cabal, back in control of the party and the nation, but also resulted in the Federal Civil Service. A new and even more corrupt political combination is now attempting to close the parenthesis opened by Charles Guiteau’s revolver. I expect they’ll succeed.