IN research: Federal workers defy 'deep state' stereotype

Researchers say U.S. federal workers are generally high-performing, impartial and minimally corrupt compared with other countries' civil servants. (Adobe stock)

Hoosiers running for public office often criticize "the government," despite wanting to be part of it.

Research published in The Conversation, a leading publisher of research-based news, finds many people misunderstand civil jobs and federal employees are dedicated to serving the public and upholding government integrity.

James L. Perry, professor emeritus of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, who contributed to the research article, said the federal government has grown to include about 3 million career civil servants, models for democratic governments worldwide.

"We didn't have NASA. We didn't have the Social Security. Medicare came in the mid-1960s," Perry outlined. "We just have all these enterprises that are now part of the federal domain that didn't exist a few decades ago, much less 150 years ago."

Despite political differences, Perry noted civil servants prioritize executing lawful orders and providing vital expertise. Appreciating their merit-based service is crucial for maintaining effective governance. Opponents often describe the bureaucratic government jobs as the "administrative state" or "deep state."

Perry emphasized federal workers handle diverse responsibilities, from environmental protection to disaster relief, with professionalism and dedication.

"They take an oath of office, more highly respected than recent president have respected oath of office," Perry pointed out. "The reality is that civil servants take that very seriously because they say, 'I'm working on behalf of the constitution and constitutional principles.'"

Research underscores the valuable contributions of civil servants despite political rhetoric suggesting otherwise.

This story was produced with original reporting by Jaime Kucinskas and James L. Perry for The Conversation.

By Joe Ulery, Producer

April 4, 2024