Can someone explain Morris P. Fiorina's essay "The Rise of the Washington Establishment"?

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The essay "The Rise of the Washington Establishment" by Morris P. Fiorina is a deeply cynical, although troublingly realistic, look at the United States government's congressional establishment. According to Fiorina, the overriding motivation of politicians, bureaucrats, and voters concerning Congress is self-interest. He does, however, preface his remarks by stating...

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The essay "The Rise of the Washington Establishment" by Morris P. Fiorina is a deeply cynical, although troublingly realistic, look at the United States government's congressional establishment. According to Fiorina, the overriding motivation of politicians, bureaucrats, and voters concerning Congress is self-interest. He does, however, preface his remarks by stating that he is offering nothing more than an unproven theory.

Fiorina opens by establishing what he terms his "cast of characters." By this he means the various groups that he will discuss in his essay. He summarizes how each of these groups promotes their own welfare through the congressional system. The congressmen themselves, for instance, enjoy their high salaries, additional perks, prestige, and power. For these reasons, their overriding motivation and what propels them in their decision-making is reelection. Whether their goals are oriented toward selfish acquisition or assisting the public, reelection is foremost in their minds. Bureaucrats are concerned with preserving and protecting their agencies. Voters want benefits from the government at the least personal cost.

If congressmen are mainly concerned with reelection, argues Fiorina, they will first favor legislation that benefits their own districts. Afterward, they may or may not consider the welfare of the country. Federal projects are promptly considered only inasmuch as they can bring financial or social gain to their own constituencies. Other bills for the general good may languish indefinitely in committees. Another area to which congressmen give attention is the specific favors of constituents, because the requesters may become valuable allies.

Bureaucrats are dependent upon congressmen for appropriations to fund and expand their agencies. In fact, congressmen have the power to enhance or destroy agencies through budget improvements or cuts. In turn, bureaucrats are forced to listen when congressmen call and ask favors.

For congressmen, taking stands on legislation is sometimes controversial, while pushing for federal projects in their districts is safer. Individual assistance to constituents is safest of all. Those who have been helped feel indebted to the congressmen. News of favors spreads and embellishes the congressmen's reputations.

With reelection in mind, the passing of important legislation is not as important as local district financial gains and personal favors to constituents. All of this serves to promulgate a system that is overwhelmingly concerned with the self-interest of politicians, bureaucrats, and voters, and not with larger issues of legislation that are beneficial to all in the long term.

This situation has created a large and complex federal bureaucracy, which inevitably makes mistakes. To remedy these mistakes, voters turn to their congressmen. This gives rise to an entrenched establishment that functions in its own self-interest. According to Fiorina, Congress creates big government, the system feeds itself and its own interests, and any benefit to the country is incidental.

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Morris Fiorina’s essay “The Rise of the Washington Establishment,” is a chapter from his broader study of the legislative branch of the federal government titled Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment. While the broader examination of the United States Congress covers a number of subjects including the role of congressional staff, chapter 5 focuses on what Fiorina views as a self-perpetuating cycle involving both Congress and the executive branch agencies the budgets of which it oversees.

That cycle—which posits that members of Congress view their principal objective as being reelected and that the key to that objective is the ability (or perception of ability) to direct federal dollars to one’s district or state—results in the persistent growth of government. That growth, Fiorina argues, occurs because, in order to ensure the flow of federal dollars to one’s constituents, congresspersons and senators need to earmark dollars to executive branch agencies with the requirement that such dollars be allocated for the specified purpose, which often requires an expansion in the size and mission of the agencies in question.

Congressional self-interest, Fiorina writes, constitutes the motivating force behind the growth of government.

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Washington Establishment discusses the issue of self interest as it relates to the people and groups that are involved in the American government system and includes congressmen, bureaucrats and voters. Fiorina first explains the meaning of the term self interest as used in the document. He states that self interest does not merely refer to amassing wealth but also the pursuit of a person’s ends regardless of whether these ends are tangible or intangible. The document also shows the role that all the people including policies involved play to support the Washington Establishment.

The major role of a congressman is to be reelected. This means that the congressman will place all necessary effort to achieve this goal. A congressman who is genuinely working for the public good or one advancing self serving interests will both view reelections as a means to their ends. Bureaucrats are also caught up in the establishment because they strive to increase the size of their agencies in terms of budgets and projects as this will earn them influence within the corridors of power regardless of whether one is doing good or pursuing self serving interests. On the other hand the voter wants to ensure they obtain the highest benefits at the lowest cost regardless of the government’s ability. All these groups by relying on each other play a fundamental role of ensuring growth of federal bureaucracy and the Washington Establishment.

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In this essay, Fiorina attempts to explain that the rise of federal bureaucracy to meet certain needs has led to bigger government. But he also suggests that the rise of bureaucracy has created a political atmosphere in which it is much easier for competent politicians of whatever party to get reeelected. Politicians who understand pork barrelling can work the system to the benefit of their constituents because they exert control over the funds that are the lifeblood of bureaucracy. Congress creates bureaucracy, which earns them "electoral credits" because bureaucracy has tangible benefits for people. Then when the bureaucracy fails to address a certain need people have, the congressman can intervene on behalf of his constituents, all the while denouncing the "evils of bureaucracy" which he himself created. Congressmen, Fiorina claims, "take credit coming and going." So they have, he thinks, no interest in eliminating or even seriously reforming the bureaucracy. In fact, they don't really have an interest in government working very well in general, as long as they can make it work for their constituents in particular.

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