Constitutionalism, the idea of the civil service, and constitutional law

Despite populist attacks on civil servants and the “deep state,” an ongoing corps of government staff with some independence is a central part of constitutional democracy’s infrastructure. Its constitutional role in securing competent government under law, while mediating tensions between independent expertise and democratic participation and accountability, is complex but vital. One aspect of its constitutional role is to help government offices function as “knowledge institutions,” part of the polity’s epistemic infrastructure. This function entails meritocratic, inclusive employment practices and some protection from political interference. Rule of law concerns as well as concerns for avoiding undue executive power further support the need for an independent civil service. This comparative paper explores the civil service’s roles in advancing democratic participation and competent decision-making (especially in enabling government offices to function as knowledge institutions).