The Deep State is an outgrowth of the democratic State, without which it could neither expand nor exist. In a totalitarian regime there is no distinction between the two; there is just the State as the autocratic ruler of the territory it claims as its own. As democratic states become more totalitarian the line between State and Deep State fades, as you would expect.
States have been around for so long it seems there is no other way to organize society, and therefore the best we can do is control them. For that purpose constitutions have been imposed, though it hasn’t worked because the State itself turns out to be the constitution’s enforcer, the fox that takes charge of the henhouse. Still, the myth persists that the people can hold the State to its purpose of protecting their rights.
This is a futile strategy. Natural rights are those conditions necessary for an individual’s survival. Since we need to sustain our lives through productive work, we need protection of “persons, liberties, and properties,” as Bastiat made clear. Men formed societies for this purpose, to protect what they already have by virtue of being alive, and since individuals have the right to self-defense, States cannot have any purpose other than to protect us.
But in fact they do.
There are multiple ways people can live at the expense of others, and the State can serve as the instrument for making this happen legally. How did it happen here, in the U.S.? Check out the following: Shays’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle, Hamilton’s Curse, The Real Lincoln, The Triumph of Conservatism, The Creature from Jekyll Island, War is a Racket, End the Fed, and my own The Flight of the Barbarous Relic. That’s a lot of reading but if we want a better world we need to engage in “hard thinking and scholarship,” as Rothbard advised.
These works, though, while brilliant for illuminating State treachery, don’t question the legitimacy of the State itself. One supposes that if presidents such as Lincoln and Wilson got the country into unjust wars that wrecked economies while killing hundreds of thousands of people, then it’s up to us to elect better people or encode better laws. If central banking is a counterfeiting racket that funds unjust wars while making a few rich then we need to rally support to repeal the Federal Reserve Act.
As both approaches seek to limit state power, I doubt they will work. Through control of media and education, not only has the State escaped culpability for these initiatives but is widely seen as the champion of our well-being in times of crisis. Thus, wars were fought to keep us free, the Fed exists to “promote the health of the U.S. economy and the stability of the U.S. financial system.”
The authors of the foregoing works, in other words, don’t call for replacing the government structure we live under, notwithstanding its gross failure. For radical treatments that expose the bedrock of the State, its legal monopoly of force, then good places to start are Rothbard’s Anatomy of the State and For a New Liberty, Rockwell’s Against the State, Murphy’s Chaos Theor, and Hoppe’s The Private Production of Defense.
But these alone won’t get far into the details of the U.S. Deep State.
For that, you can find scholarly treatments in Laurent Guyénot’s JFK-9/11: 50 Years of Deep State (2015) and Michael J. Glennon’s National Security and Double Government (2014). Let’s examine some of Glennon’s points.
The survival of the State is supreme
He makes a distinction between the government Madison and his cohorts created and the one Truman set in motion that executes the “national security” policies of unelected insiders. Under President Harry S. Truman, Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947, “which unified the military under a new Secretary of Defense, set up the CIA, created the modern Joint Chiefs of Staff, and established the National Security Council.” Glennon refers to these governments by their creators, as the Madisonians and the Trumanites.
Two broad reasons were given for the Trumanite government: One, the need to respond quickly to anything mass murderer Joseph Stalin might try, and two, the desire of the U.S. military to spread democracy all around the globe.
At the time some conservative members of Congress were critical of this arrangement. Republican Senator William Langer of North Dakota thought the real enemy was the Pentagon where “military leaders had an insatiable appetite for more money, more men, and more power.” Conservatives talked about a garrison state, a police state, and a slave state. They invoked Washington’s Farewell Address, with his advice to “steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world,” they summoned the 1821 speech of John Quincy Adams who warned against going abroad in search of monsters to destroy, they pointed out the shifting of congressional responsibility to administrative policymaking.
They spoke truth to power, but power won big. Red Scare II, along with the awesome threat of the state they lived under, a state that lost no sleep over incinerating civilians with nuclear weapons and firebombing, frightened Americans into compliance.
The Deep State keeps growing
Glennon sites a 2011 Washington Post article that, following a two-year investigation,
identified forty-six federal departments and agencies engaged in classified national security work. Their missions range from intelligence gathering and analysis to war-fighting, cyber-operations, and weapons development. Almost 2,000 private companies support this work, which occurs at over 10,000 locations across America. The size of their budgets and workforces are mostly classified, but it is clear that those numbers are enormous—a total annual outlay of around $1 trillion and millions of employees.
He also refers to a 1970 article by Henry Kissinger: “The nightmare of the modern state is the hugeness of the bureaucracy, and the problem is how to get coherence and design in it.” Kisssinger’s wrong. The State, modern or otherwise, is coherently a leech upon free people and a psychotic bully in global affairs.
If the Deep State keeps growing, we will have just one State, deep and tyrannical in every respect, all in the name of “national security.”
The Deep State would fold if the State on which it depends couldn’t extract the necessary loot from the people it feeds on. As a rogue organization the Deep State doesn’t have many fans outside of its ranks. If people took a hard look at the State itself, they might find they don’t cherish that entity much, either. But they’re reluctant to call for radical change because they’ve been told the free market is a jungle only the State can control. This is patently false, as Rothbard points out:
In the jungle, some gain only at the expense of others. On the market, everyone gains. It is the market—the contractual society—that wrests order out of chaos, that subdues nature and eradicates the jungle, that permits the “weak” to live productively, or out of gifts from production, in a regal style compared to the life of the “strong” in the jungle.
People are sick of the State’s taxing, counterfeiting, nannying, warmongering, lying, scandal-ridden, bureaucratic ways. They need to break out some books and learn that pushing for an unfettered free market is the path to their deliverance from tyranny.
Reprinted with the author’s permission.