Iain Murray tries to count how many there are.

When we add up the true size of the federal workforce — civil servants, postal workers, military personnel, contractors, grantees, and bailed-out businesses — and add in state- and local-government employees — civil servants, teachers, firefighters, and police officers — we reach the astonishing figure of nearly 40 million Americans employed in some way by government. That means that about 17 percent of the American labor pool — one in every six workers — owes its living to the taxpayer.

Foseti tries to describe how they function.

people are not used to thinking about working environments in which employees cannot be fired. This situation changes the employment dynamic in many ways. Outside of the government, a “boss” is in charge. However, once the power to fire employees is removed, how is it possible for a boss to really be in charge? In a sense, this creates a situation in which the employees are – in reality – in charge.

Thanks to Moldbug for the pointer. Read the whole thing. I can’t resist some more excerpts.

The defining feature of the bureaucracy is lack of accountability. It’s very hard to understand the complex ways in which the total absence of accountability affects an organization.


I’ve seen more people come from industry to government than go the other way. Why would leave a well-paid job from which I can’t get fired and which doesn’t require me to work that hard? It’s not hard for me to find a job that would increase my salary by 20% or so, but I’d have to work 50-100% more and I could be fired.

I think Foseti would agree that the political layer of the bureaucracy is different. They work long hours, and they burn out. Whether they have real power is another question entirely. Foseti is among those who would argue that it is the permanent employees who have the power.

I look at something like reform of public schools in D.C. through that lens. Did Michelle Rhee have real power? Everybody knew that she was going to leave eventually. Given that the vast majority of teachers survived her reign, then it is fair to guess that the D.C. school system will not show any lasting effects from her reforms.