A,B,C’s of Regulatory Government

A,B,C’s of Regulatory Government

© Neal A. Klegerman, courtesy of NevadaBeFree.com

A is for Agencies, Administrations, Authorities…

B is for Bureaus, Boards…

C is for Commissions, Councils…

I knew a smart fellow years ago who had lived most of his life behind the Iron Curtain. I remember one day talking with him in a library and he looked at the expanse of paper bound volumes of the Code of Federal Regulations on the shelves (pre-Internet days) and he was disheartened. He said this is how tyranny begins, too much power in the president (or whatever a particular dictatorship calls its top dog) and not much in the legislature. That was more than three decades ago, so the volumes of the CFR today likely would have filled the entire library. As President Reagan understood, the sheer size and complexity of government inhibits individual rights and economic growth. At least the understanding used to be that except perhaps for preserving their jobs and power, members of the federal bureaucracy were loyal Americans who generally knew their place in a government consisting of three separate and co-equal branches.

Today, the policy leaps and power grabs made by administrative entities of the executive branch would have been unfathomable not many years ago except perhaps by somebody who had lived through the rise of tyranny in another country. There are too many examples to recount in a short list but just in recent memory, the shenanigans of the EPA, IRS, NLRB, and most recently the FCC, supposedly an independent agency, and its action to take over the Internet. Rather than viewing the statutes these agencies were created to administer and enforce as providing their purpose and circumscribing their power, the new age federal agencies view these statutes as simply a take off point to be worked around with creative legal or policy arguments.

There was a time not so long ago that independent commissions rarely voted on partisan lines but generally acted with consensus. That was because they were populated with experts in the particular field who bought into core principles not only with respect to the legal and industry norms of the areas they regulated but also constitutional principles. Not so long ago, you might have expected a leaning one direction or the other in regulatory posture based on a change in the party holding the White House, but there was continuity and predictability combined with adherence to the Congressionally mandated policies and the words of the relevant statutes. In other words, they were loyal Americans, not political operatives, foot soldiers in the ideological campaign of the administration in power. The actions of many of today’s agencies creating new law out of whole cloth is breathless in scope. Only the courts remain to intervene, Congress having largely abdicated its responsibility.

America is choking on regulatory alphabet soup.