Trump and others have mentioned something called the deep state. What is that?
I happened across this interview the other day that I thought was both informative and helpful. It's with Dominic Cummings ... who was on track to be the next Prime Minister in the UK ... before his political career collapsed around personal travel early in the pandemic that pretty badly violated lockdown rules. So, disgraced, but if you get played by Bendedict Cumberbatch in a movie, you're probably worth listening to.
The interview is on a podcast called Manfold that seems to be free on Spotify. It's 2 hours long. Listen only if interested. FWIW: you can also get AI programs to create transcripts of things like this.
Admittedly he is talking about the UK, but the ideas carry over to the U.S.
The name and concept of the "deep state" come to us from Turkey. It described elements of the military and intelligence services that didn't really run the country from day to day, but which did keep it on what they saw as a desirable path. They did this by limiting the ability of elected officials to have their more substantive decisions put into effect.
Basically, an unelected bureaucracy that couldn't be displaced through democratic means.
The power of the deep state in Turkey was eventually diminished by the election of the pro-Islamist Erdogan, and his accumulation of dictatorial powers over the last 15 years.
FWIW: the deep state in Turkey tended towards policies that aligned the country more closely with the U.S., western European powers, and Israel.
From Turkey, the notion of the deep state spread to other countries.
In the U.S, Trump and others also called it "The Swamp", after the steamy climate in Washington D.C.
No one has ever made a serious claim that the deep state was ever as strong here as it was in Turkey.
From the interview, as excerpted in The Epoch Times (all the emphasis is theirs).
Asked “who really runs the UK,” Cummings said he was surprised that donors have “remarkably little influence” and it was the officials that made decisions.
“COVID’s a classic example of this.”
Cummings said while the media reported disagreements among ministers over COVID-19 policies, “in fact, almost always … these ministers had absolutely nothing to do with anything important, and the decisions were taken almost entirely by officials with almost no ministerial input at all.”
He said officials, particularly private secretaries, make 99 percent of the decisions, while the prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer made few but “big” decisions.
Asked whether it’s fair to call the officials a “deep state,” Cummings said he believed it is fair in the sense that “they are a kind of deeply entrenched institutions, which actually practically controls huge amounts of what happens with zero to very little democratic insight or even knowledge and understanding.”
“That is unarguably the case,” he said, adding that it doesn’t mean there are conspiracies going on.
Cummings believes on the one hand it’s “for the good” that “brilliant 30-year-old women who no one’s heard of and no one elected [are] actually running things” because “the quality of the elected people is so desperately bad now across Western governments.”
On the other hand, it means the institutions become “incredibly stale and self reinforcing” to the point “almost nothing can change in any way, including by the deep state itself,” he said.
N.B. In the parliamentary system in the UK, ministers are members of Parliament (a legislature) elevated to positions comparable to our executive branch. The secretaries referred to are not executive assistants (as the word is used in the US) but more like top-level permanent staff of various government departments.
Personally, I don't care for Trump, have little interest in Cummings or The Epoch Times, and I've never heard of the podcast or interviewer.
Professionally though, I do get that something like the "deep state" or "the swamp" exists, and that it has both benefits, but the costs are quite clearly stated in the last quoted paragraph. This is in important point for understanding why so much macroeconomic policy is lousy.