Deregulation Drains Government Expertise

The Trump Administration’s deregulatory zeal invariably invites comparison with previous eras of deregulation—especially with the Reagan years. But to understand the present moment completely, we need to go back first to the Pendleton Act of 1883 and the political thought of President Woodrow Wilson, and then, moving forward, to the frustrations experienced in the mid-20th Century by subsequent Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Richard Nixon. What these two time periods—late 19th and mid-20th Centuries—highlight are progressive efforts to take politics out of administration and presidential efforts to bring politics—and responsiveness—back in. It is only within this context that both Reagan’s and Trump’s deregulatory efforts can be understood. The Pendleton Act of 1883 was an attempt to limit the spoils system popularized by President Andrew Jackson and to create a more merit-based, technocratically proficient,…

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