Lowi’s thesis is that liberalism has led to “impotent government, no less impotent because it was getting bigger.” While Lowi does not cite Hannah Arendt, his focus on the way liberalism renders democratic government impotent reflects Arendt’s own worries that the greatest threat to freedom in America was the growing bureaucracy of government. Arendt distinguished two kinds of bureaucracy. First, the bureaucracy of a deformed civil service that leads to inefficiency and vexations that serve not the public interest, but the interest of the bureaucrats themselves.
A second, and more dangerous form of bureaucracy, is “government by decree.” It is a government that sees the law as a hindrance, an obstacle to be overcome in the bureaucratic effort to govern the people directly. Decrees are anonymous. They give the impression of constant action ... Arendt writes, “People ruled by decree never know what rules them because of the impossibility of understanding decrees in themselves and the carefully organized ignorance of specific circumstances and their practical significance in which all administrators keep their subjects.”
Reflecting Arendt, Lowi argues that liberalism has led in the United States to a government of “policy without law,” something like a government by decree.