Civil Service Reform – Legislation & Mitigating the Worst Habits of the Spoils System

We have previously explored the need for legislation to convert all Federal government workers (except for those serving in the military, Federal law enforcement, and the Judiciary) from hard to dismiss unionized employees to at-will employees dismissable at the whim of the President.

Exemptions should be granted to military and law enforcement personnel because they already have adequate, if not perfect, hiring and firing rules; the Judiciary is exempted to maintain its Constitutionally defined status as an independent branch of government.

Aside from these exemptions, the power of the President to remove Civil Servants should be fully restored in order to bring the FedGov bureaucracy under the strict control of the Executive, which is how the founders intended the bureaucracy to fit in the Federal system, and to break the Bureaucratic State’s present freedom to act as a Technocratic Fourth branch of government acting independently of the other three branches and the voters.

Any restoration of the, now completely broken, chain of command between the Executive and the Civil Service brings with it the potential problem of restoring the corruption produced by the Hamiltonian Spoils System of Golden Age America.  This corruption was the result of President’s excessively using Federal government positions to reward political cronies.  Although I would without hesitation prefer the worst political scandals of the Golden Age over the best of today’s politics, it is still preferable to mitigate the potential for excessive Spoils System cronyism if only to prevent unnecessarily handing the Progressives scandals they can hold up to justify making the Civil Service again independent of the Executive.

To head off this problem, our ideal Civil Service legislation would include the following items –

  • All new Civil Servant candidates must be approved by the Senate just as Cabinet Secretaries are.
  • Because the above would require the Senate vote on potentially thousands of candidates at once, to save time the Senate could, for every vote, vote on slates of multiple candidates on a single list submitted to the Senate by the President.
  • A single Senator will have the power to block any nominee they find objectionable from appearing on a candidate list that is to be voted on for Senate approval.
  • All candidates must meet certain requirements before they can take their Civil Service job, such as having no criminal background, passing drug tests, etc.
  • Forbid the President from nominating bureaucrats who have had personal financial dealings with the President in any capacity over the past 20 years (or some other span of time).
  • To avoid running afoul of Supreme Court rulings forbidding the President from making unilateral cuts to the Federal budget, the President will be required to nominate a replacement for every vacancy made by his dismissal of an existing Civil Service bureaucrat instead of just letting the position (and the money budgeted for that position) go unfilled.

The advantage of these policies rests in that they would make it harder for the President to seat very objectionable candidates for government jobs while at the same time giving him great freedom to remove any government bureaucrat from a previous administration.

An easy-to-fire/hard-to-hire Civil Service rearrangement of the Federal workforce is far more advantageous to Conservatives than Progressives because a Conservative President like Trump can easily afford to leave government positions temporarily unfilled if the Senate delays and stalls votes on his  nominees to the bureaucracy.  Trump would be especially happy with any Senate obstruction if, in exchange for this obstruction, he is handed the statutory power to unilaterally remove vast swathes of existing bureaucrats, at any time, without Congressional approval.

Technocratic Progressives, whose reason for existence is to give as much unconstitutional power to tyrannical government bureaucrats as possible, have little to gain from our outline of a restored Spoils System because Republican Senators would be empowered to block the most objectionable nominees of a Democratic President and because the Progressive political system is inherently more dependent on an activist Bureaucracy than any Republican Presidential administration.

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9 thoughts on “Civil Service Reform – Legislation & Mitigating the Worst Habits of the Spoils System”

  1. 1. So the President can fire any civil servant, for any reason, at any time, correct?

    2. Would you not want to expand the 20 year financial dealings to more than just the President? After all, it is a team, an administration, and who knows what kind of back scratching could go on?

    3. Why the focus on drugs and crime as bars? What about political connections?

    4. Again, I ask could we not outsource a lot of the work to private companies? Set targets, and if those targets are not met then the company does not get paid, or it only gets paid a little, or it has to pay fine?

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  2. Let’s talk about the founding vision of America.

    I have always seen America as a commercial republic that aimed at keeping political enthusiasm, superstition and tyranny out of government, and away from men pursuing their own business – business with a capital B.

    How much, do you think, is the original philosophy of America encapsulated in the claim by Coolidge: “the business of America is business”?

    I’m about to re-read one your essays on Hamilton. Also, do you think the Federalist papers, after the constitution, is the best source to read to understand American philosophy?

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  3. 1. So the President can fire any civil servant, for any reason, at any time, correct?

    Yes.

    2. Would you not want to expand the 20 year financial dealings to more than just the President? After all, it is a team, an administration, and who knows what kind of back scratching could go on?

    Some backscratching is inevitable. I want this restriction on the lower level civil servants so the rewarding of cronies doesn’t become too egregious. I am comfortable if top advisers and Cabinet officials had previous political or financial alliances to a President.

    3. Why the focus on drugs and crime as bars? What about political connections?

    Banning anyone with any political connections narrows the pool to an unnecessary degree. I used drugs and criminal backgrounds as just examples of potential disqualifiers; I’m open to additional criteria.

    4. Again, I ask could we not outsource a lot of the work to private companies? Set targets, and if those targets are not met then the company does not get paid, or it only gets paid a little, or it has to pay fine?

    The statutory changes I’m proposing could also give the President greater power to outsource government functions to private companies, though this would also be an opportunity for graft to politically connected businessmen. To check this there would need to be some sort of oversight provided by Congress or a private watchdog group.

    I’m willing to be flexible with what particular rules have to be satisfied for the President to replace civil servants so long as he has an absolute right to fire civil servants at-will.

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  4. How much, do you think, is the original philosophy of America encapsulated in the claim by Coolidge: “the business of America is business”?

    Fully, as would Hamilton, Clay, and Lincoln. I have articles coming up about Capitalism where I will show you how far Capitalism and commerce can take a political ideology.

    I’m about to re-read one your essays on Hamilton. Also, do you think the Federalist papers, after the constitution, is the best source to read to understand American philosophy?

    The best source is American history up to FDR, then the Federalist papers, and then Pragmatically Distributed.

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