Bring Back the Bureaucrats

In Bring Back the Bureaucrats, John J. DiIulio Jr., one of America’s most respected political scientists and an adviser to presidents in both parties, summons the facts and statistics to show us how America’s big government actually works and why reforms that include adding a million more people to the federal workforce by 2035 might actually help to slow government’s growth while improving its performance.

Starting from the underreported reality that the size of the federal workforce hasn’t increased since the early 1960s even though the federal budget has skyrocketed and the number of federal programs has ballooned, Bring Back the Bureaucrats tells us what our elected leaders won’t: there simply are not enough federal workers to do work that’s critical to our democracy.

Government in America, DiIulio reveals, is Leviathan by Proxy, a grotesque form of debt-financed big government that guarantees bad government:

  • Washington relies on state and local governments, for-profit firms, and nonprofit organizations to implement federal policies and programs. Big-city mayors, defense industry contractors, nonprofit executives and other federal proxies lobby incessantly for more federal spending
  • The proxy system chokes on chores as distinct as cleaning up toxic waste sites, caring for hospitalized veterans, collecting taxes, handling plutonium, and policing more than $100 billion a year in “improper payments.”
  • The lack of enough competent, well-trained federal civil servants figured in the failed federal response to Hurricane Katrina and in the troubled launch of Obamacare “health exchanges.”

Bring Back the Bureaucrats is further distinguished by the presence of E. J. Dionne Jr. and Charles Murray, two of the most astute voices from the political left and right, respectively, who offer their candid responses to DiIulio at the end of the book.

“[DiIlulio’s] analysis of how things are working on the discretionary side of the budget is powerful. For instance, at one point, the Department of Homeland Security had more contractors than employees. The Department of Energy spends 90% of its budget on contracts that implement its important nuclear missions.

But the real question is does any of this matter? Has outsourcing gone too far? DiIlulio points out that the massive outsourcing of government has not improved it—quite the contrary.”

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“In his book Bring Back the Bureaucrats, John J. DiIulio Jr. propounds a theory of “Leviathan by Proxy.” He acknowledges the prodigious expansion of government over the last six decades, but he refuses to blame the federal civilian (nonmilitary and nonpostal) work force; he documents that it has remained essentially frozen in size throughout that period. He insists that the growth of the American Leviathan is attributable to federal dollars lavished on state and local governments, for-profit contractors, and nonprofit organizations. He calls the result ‘leveraged, not limited, government.’”

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Bring Back the Bureaucrats by John DiIulio, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, is a brisk, lively polemic that surprisingly calls, on conservative grounds, for an enormous increase in the federal civil service.”

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“DiIulio’s ameliorative for our republic’s ills is counterintuitive: We can curb government growth and improve its performance by hiring one million more bureaucrats by 2035. The idea is not a batty one: Since 1960, federal spending has quintupled, yet the number of civil servants (two million) has remained flat.”

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“At just 142 pages, and with plenty of passion and colourful phrases, Bring Back the Bureaucrats could easily be read over a weekend by the average over-stretched bureaucrat.  It is not an academic book, but is full of clearly presented and pertinent facts that would provide a useful starting point for discussion for university students.”

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“The political scientist John DiIulio has written a thoughtful book, Bring Back the Bureaucrats, arguing that we need more, not fewer, career officials, to accomplish all of the tasks that Congress has assigned to the administrative state. Regardless of whether you accept his argument, it is clear that career officials do dominate the federal government, and presidential administrations need to take that into account. To be a successful political appointee, you had best learn not only how to work with, but also how to get the most from, career officials.”

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“For the six years of the Obama presidency, or perhaps the last 35 years since Ronald Reagan’s election, American politics has been dominated by a debate on the size and role of the federal government. This argument, while intense and consequential, has often lacked one element: actual knowledge about the size and role of the federal government.

Into this gap, political scientist John DiIulio has thrown a slim volume titled Bring Back the Bureaucrats. It is a reproof to everyone who hates government or loves government without understanding what it does — which covers most of the American ideological spectrum.

The responses to ‘Leviathan by proxy’ will differ according to ideology. But any serious political movement on the right or left must now be a government reform movement.”

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About the Authors

Credit: University of Pennsylvania
John J. DiIulio, Jr. is the Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania.  His academic and civic interests include American government and politics; U.S. public leadership, administration, and management; religion, faith-based social service delivery programs, and nonprofit organizations; U.S. health care policy and administration; and China-U.S. relations and Sino-American educational and cultural exchange programs.  A native Philadelphian and the first in his family to graduate from college, he received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard, and a B.A. (economics-political science) and an M.A. (political science-public policy) from Penn.  At Penn he serves as faculty director of the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program and the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society. Before coming to Penn, he was a Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where he directed the Woodrow Wilson School’s domestic policy MPA program and founded its first domestic and comparative policy research center.  Before coming to Princeton, he taught at Harvard University and served as Head Resident Tutor of a Harvard undergraduate residence.

Among other academic awards, he is winner of the David N. Kershaw Award of the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, the Leonard D. White Award in Public Administration of the American Political Science Association, and several awards for excellence in teaching including Penn’s Lindback Award, its Abrams Award, and awards from each of its two main student honor societies.  His public and community service awards include the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Achievement Award and the Gesu Spirit Award.  He has been a senior fellow and a research center director at several major public policy think tanks and research intermediaries including the Brookings Institution, the Manhattan Institute, and Public/Private Ventures.  At Brookings, he was the C. Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and founding co-director of the Brookings Center for Public Management.  He has served on the boards of numerous national magazines, academic journals, and national and/or local nonprofit organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Partners for Sacred Places, and several colleges and universities.  He has co-developed large-scale programs to expand community-based educational opportunities for low-income children, mentor the children of prisoners, support urban religious nonprofit organizations that deliver social services, and several others.  Through Penn’s Fox Program, he has been engaged since 2006 in the ongoing recovery process in post-Katrina New Orleans.  He has served on bipartisan government reform commissions.  As a White House senior staff member (Assistant to the President of the United States), he served as first Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and he assisted the Obama administration in reconstituting and expanding that office.

His more than a dozen books and edited volumes include Bring Back the Bureaucrats: Why More Federal Workers Will Result in Better (And Smaller!) Government (Templeton Press, 2014); American Government (with James Q. Wilson and Meena Bose, Cengage, 2014), 14th Edition; Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America’s Faith-Based Future(University of California Press, 2007); Medicaid and Devolution (with Frank Thompson, Brookings, 1998); Improving Government Performance: An Owner’s Manual (with Donald F. Kettl and Gerald J. Garvey, Brookings, 1993); and Governing Prisons: A Comparative Study of Correctional Management (Free Press, 1987)  He has written for many major magazines and newspapers and co-authored widely-noted reports on issues including education reform (e.g., Silent Epidemic, 2006, Achievement Trap, 2007, and others with Civic Enterprises). In 2013, he joined the Aspen Institute’s effort to mobilize 18-28 year-old citizens into year-long national and community service positions and began co-leading an in-depth study of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  In 2014, he launched a major, multi-university effort to develop a new generation of China-U.S. educational and cultural exchange programs for young adult students and leaders in both nations.  He is a Roman Catholic in the Jesuit tradition.

Credit: Washington Post
E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and university professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University.

A nationally known and respected commentator on politics, Dionne appears weekly on National Public Radio and regularly on MSNBC.  He has also appeared on News Hour with Jim Lehrer and other PBS programs.

Dionne began his career with New York Times, where he spent fourteen years reporting on state and local government, national politics, and from around the world, including stints in Paris, Rome, and Beirut. The Los Angeles Times praised his coverage of the Vatican as the best in two decades. In 1990, Dionne joined the Washington Post in 1990 as a reporter, covering national politics and began writing his column in 1993. His best-selling book, Why Americans Hate Politics (Simon & Schuster), was published in 1991. The book, which Newsday called “a classic in American political history,” won the Los Angeles Times book prize, and was a National Book Award nominee.

He is the author and editor or co-editor of several other books and volumes, including They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era (Simon & Schuster, 1996), Community Works: The Revival of Civil Society in America (Brookings Press, 1998), What’s God Got to Do with the American Experiment (Brookings Press, 2000), Bush v. Gore (Brookings Press, 2000), Sacred Places, Civic Purposes: Should Government Help Faith-Based Charity? (Brookings Press, 2001), and United We Serve: National Service and the Future of Citizenship with Kayla Meltzer Drogosz and Robert E. Litan (Brookings Press 2003), Stand Up Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge (Simon & Schuster, 2004), Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right (Princeton University Press, 2008) and Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury USA, 2012). His latest book is Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism-From Goldwater to Trump and Beyond, published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

Dionne has received numerous awards, including the American Political Science Association’s Carey McWilliams Award to honor a major journalistic contribution to the understanding of politics.  He has been named among the 25 most influential Washington journalists by the National Journal and among the capital city’s top 50 journalists by the Washingtonian magazine. He was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2002, he received the Empathy Award from the Volunteers of America, and in 2004 he won the National Human Services Assembly’s Award for Excellence by a Member of the Media. In 2006, he gave the Theodore H. White Lecture at the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.  The Sidney Hillman Foundation presented him with the Hillman Award for Career Achievement in 2011.

Dionne grew up in Fall River, Mass. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Harvard University in 1973 and received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He and his wife, Mary Boyle, live in Bethesda, Md. and have three children, James, Julia and Margot.

Credit: AEI
Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A political scientist, author, and libertarian, he first came to national attention in 1984 with the publication of Losing Ground, which has been credited as the intellectual foundation for the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. His 1994 New York Times bestseller The Bell Curve (Free Press, 1994), coauthored with the late Richard J. Herrnstein, sparked heated controversy for its analysis of the role of IQ in shaping America’s class structure. Dr. Murray’s other books include What It Means to Be a Libertarian (1997), Human Accomplishment (2003), In Our Hands (2006), Real Education (2008), and the New York Times bestseller Coming Apart (2012). His most recent book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission (Crown Forum, 2015) urges Americans to stem governmental overreach and use America’s unique civil society to put government back in its place.

Dr. Murray has Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. in history from Harvard University.