The enfranchised masses, in short, have disappointed those who think they know better. Walter Lippmann worried that “what thwarts the growth of our civilization is . . . the faltering method, the distracted soul, and the murky vision of what we grandiloquently call the will of the people.” More recently, Peter Orszag urges that “bold measures are needed to circumvent polarization” – in particular that America needs to overcome the resulting “gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.”
Of course, the removal of legislative power from the representatives of a diverse people has implications for minorities. Leaving aside Wilson’s overt racism, the problem is the relocation of lawmaking power a further step away from the people and into the hands of a relatively homogenized class. Even when exercised with solicitude for minorities, it is a sort of power exercised from above, and those who dominate the administrative state have always been if not white men, then at least members of the knowledge class.
It therefore should be no surprise that administrative power comes with costs for the classes and attachments that are more apt to find expression through representative government. In contrast to the power exercised by elected members of Congress, administrative power comes with little accountability to – or even sympathy for – local, regional, religious, and other distinctive communities. Individually, administrators may be concerned about all Americans, but their power is structured in a way designed to cut off the political demands with which, in a representative system of government, local and other distinctive communities can protect themselves.