American Elephants


The Tyranny of the Administrative State by The Elephant's Child

wy-pond-550x309You will be hearing a lot more about “the administrative state” in the coming days and weeks. The name sounds way too bureaucratty to be of interest, but phrased a little differently, more like—the Progressives are a bunch of control freaks and want to ruin your life and your freedom with a constant flow of regulation to satisfy their own egos.   That’s much clearer, and unfortunately true.

This seems especially clear because I’m just back from a trip to Home Depot for lightbulbs. If you have recently faced the lightbulb display at Home Depot or any similar store, you know what I mean. The federal government decided that the fear of global warming justified banning our dependable, cheap, incandescent bulbs and thrusting upon us all sorts of unsatisfactory junk from China—twisty bulbs, 40 watt bulbs that are now supposed to light as well as 75 watt but don’t use up so much energy and so on. What was once a simple shopping trip has turned into a confusing nightmare. Besides, I personally believe that this has nothing to do with “saving energy” and everything to do with the fact that the lighting companies would make a lot more money if they could force us to use the noxious new bulbs made in China, that being why they have all those lobbyists in D.C. (crony capitalism).

Conservatives talk a lot about Liberty and the Constitution, but I’m afraid that that just passes millennials by. Our founding fathers were only recently subjects of England, and they had revolted and fought  a war to escape what they considered tyranny and a far too administrative state. When they were writing a new constitution for the country, Liberty was paramount in their minds. How could they insure that generations hence would not lightly lose all that they had fought for? They were deeply familiar with ambition and greed, power-seeking, and all the other flaws of humanity. So they devised a system of three equal branches, so that no one branch could exert control over the others—and in general, it has worked pretty well.

When the European Union was being devised to prevent the continual wars that had plagued the continent, Valery Giscard d’ Estang, a former French President, was elected to the commission to devise a constitution for the EU. The commission looked at the U.S. Constitution, but could not imagine devolving so much power to the people. So the EU became the unaccountable body to which much of Europe is revolting and considering leaving, as Britain is now doing.

Here’s an example of how the modern administrative state tramples all over the separation of powers from Steven Hayward’s new book: Patriotism Is Not Enough. A classic paragraph from Boston University law professor Gary Lawson, in his 1994 Harvard Law Review article “The Rise and Rise of the Administrative State.”

The [Federal Trade] Commission promulgates substantive rules of conduct. The Commission then considers whether to authorize investigations into whether the Commission’s rules have been violated. If the Commission authorizes an investigation, the investigation is conducted by the Commission, which reports its findings to the Commission. If the Commission thinks that the Commission’s findings warrant an enforcement action, the Commission issues a complaint. The Commission’s complaint that a Commission rule has been violated is then prosecuted by the Commission and adjudicated by the Commission. This Commission adjudication can either take place before the full Commission or before a semi-autonomous Commission administrative law judge. If the Commission chooses to adjudicate before an administrative law judge rather than before the Commission and the decision is adverse to the Commission, the Commission can appeal to the Commission. If the Commission ultimately finds a violation, then, and only then, the affected private party can appeal to an Article III court. But the agency decision, even before the bona fide Article III tribunal, possesses a very strong presumption of correctness on matters both of fact and of law.

It’s only funny until they start coming after you. We’ve reported on Gibson Guitars, and the Sacketts case in Northern Idaho, and rancher Andy Johnson building a stock pond  (above) on his property, but those are only a few of the big ones. Notable because they were so outrageous and so stupid. But excellent examples of the administrative state at work. How do you fight fines of $35,000 a day? How about telling all the school kids in the country what they have to eat for lunch? Or how about ordering all the bathrooms and locker rooms to be open to anyone who wants to come in?

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1 Comment so far
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“t’s only funny until they start coming after you.”
How true it is!

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Comment by Richard A. Fletcher




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