A little history

VDH

Imperial Spain’s El Escorial outside Madrid, the courts of Renaissance Venice, and Byzantium’s Constantinople, or the thousands who lived at 18th-century Versailles, were all thronged with court functionaries. They were the embryos of nonstop dramas of intrigue and coups, and often immune to periodic changes even in autocratic heads of state.

The Byzantine emperor Justinian savagely curbed the influence of his bureaucratic opponents only through the infamous slaughter of the Nika riots of AD 532. The key for the deep-state careerist was always survival, even more than public service. The ubiquitous fifth-century B.C. Athenian Alcibiades was variously an Athenian democratic imperialist, a suspected oligarchic sympathizer, a wanted outlaw of the Athenian state, a turncoat working for Sparta, a returning Athenian democrat, and an aristocratic exile under the protection of Persia — the common denominator being a manipulative skilled survivor of the politics of the Greek city-state.

Similar was the much later example of the “versatile” French minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Talleyrand for more than 40 years was a fixture of the permanent Paris court and thus in succession an advocate and betrayer of the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the restored monarchy. His loyalty was to the career of Monsieur Talleyrand rather than to France, much less to monarchy, the revolution, republican government, or dictatorship.

Since the U.S. post-war era, the yearly growth of American state and federal government has been exponential. By 2017, there were nearly 3 million civilian federal workers and another 1.3 million Americans in the uniformed military. Over 22 million local, state, and federal workers had made government the largest employment sector. The three largest American unions were respectively the National Education Association (mostly teachers and public-education staff ), Service Employees International Union, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

The reach of the deep state ultimately is based on two premises. One, improper government-worker behavior is difficult to audit or at least to be held to account, given that it is protected both by union contracts and civil-service law. And, two, a government appointee or bureaucrat has the unlimited resources of the state behind him, while the targeted private citizen in a federal indictment, tax audit, or regulation violation not only does not, but is assumed also not to have the means even to provide an adequate legal defense.

But the winners and losers change, right Mr. Constantinople? VDH previously commented on the utter stupidity — no, it’s insanity — of making Navratilova a persona non grata.

If there have to be permanent bullies, it would be nicer if they were not crazy lunatics.

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