The Tyranny of the Administrative State

The Swamp has many different regions populated with many varieties of swamp creatures. It’s a whole ecosystem.

But the most dangerous of all the swamp creatures, even more than the lobbyists and the calculating politicians on The Hill, or the President in the White House, is the bureaucracy. The massive federal employee army that rings the Capitol and has outposts throughout America is by far the part of the Swamp that deserves the most attention (all of it deserves attention) right now. Since the New Deal the Swamp has spilled over into the productive fields of the private economy. It’s time to lower the water level and get that land working again.

(From Reason)

The tyranny of the administrative state is real and hard to tame. Americans would be horrified if they knew how much power thousands of unelected bureaucrats employed by federal agencies wield. These members of the “government within the government,” as The New York Times‘ John Tierney describes them, produce one freedom-restricting, economy-hindering rule after another without much oversight. These rules take many forms, and few even realize they’re in the making—until, that is, they hit you square in the face.

Take the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule that effectively banned car dealers from giving auto loan discounts to customers on the claim that they might lead to racial discrimination (a dubious conclusion reached using flawed statistical models). Dodd-Frank, the legislation that created the CFPB, prohibited it from regulating auto dealers—so the CFPB quietly put out a “guidance” document to circumvent due process and congressional oversight.

Thankfully, this time around, someone noticed. In recent weeks, the Senate passed a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act—a streamlined procedure for Congress to repeal regulations issued by various federal government agencies. The House is expected to follow suit soon and send the bill to the president’s desk, if it hasn’t already by the time you read this. 

In a major blow against regulatory overreach, the Government Accountability Office correctly determined that this “guidance” is, in reality, a rule and subject to congressional review. Even though the CFPB never submitted a report to Congress (as required by law for new rules), pretended that this wasn’t a new rule, and tried to regulate without any supervision, the rule still fell within the window for congressional review.

“Guidences” are something most Americans know little of. They are arbitrary declarations by unelected bureaucrats that often are so amorphous businesses don’t even know how to comply. And this is by design. That way the regulators can get you coming or going or both! Who knows?

The bureaucracy in this country has far too much power. The bureaucracy is supposed to work for us in the private sector. We pay the bills. That reality should be made clear again.