Regulatory Hang Man   Leave a comment

I’ve been blogging on the administrative state, sometimes called the “regulatory state”, the largely-invisible, increasingly powerful “shadow” government of unelected bureaucrats that control so much of American life. Like Jack Sparrow, we feel the presence of the Kraken, lurking just beneath the surface, ready to drag us down to our destruction, but we never quite put our finger on why we feel so off-kilter and most none of us know what to do about it. We sense that something has gone seriously awry with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but we feel powerless to get the ship of state back on course.

Hangman - hangman photoCongress and the White House are currently focused on the federal budget. They should be, given the perennial deficits and the unsustainable levels of U.S. debt. However, federal spending accounts for only a portion of the burden government places on the American public. Regulatory costs, representing the largest cost of government, hinder job creation and innovation while undermining American liberty.

Woodrow Wilson, the American “father of administration”, thought that we would eventually come to see regulation as a form of liberty, because it would free the people from being involved in governmental “housekeeping”. Do we feel free in the 21st century? Does liberty abound in our modern era?

We may be free of responsibility, but we are certainly not at liberty to enjoy it.

President Obama and the sitting Congress of both parties talk a good game about reducing regulation, but the facts don’t match their rhetoric. President Obama’s first term saw a nearly $70 billion increase in regulatory burden as federal agencies imposed 131 new major regulations. In 2012, the Obama administration issued a total of $23.5 billion in new regulatory costs from 25 major rulemakings. Only two rules in 2012 decreased burdens. Sadly, a tsunami of regulation is following with another 131 major rules on the Administration’s agenda. These include dozens of rules for implementing Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. The magnitude of regulations is unmatched by any administration in the nation’s history.

The obvious solution is Congress exercising its oversight authority on the Executive branch, passing the REINS Act or something similar, which would require congressional approval of each new major regulation before it is implemented. Sunset deadlines should be set for all major regulations as well as so-called “independent” agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission. If these regulations and independent agencies are vital to American society, they can go before Congress and make their case for an up or down vote. It’s a big job, but it is essential for the cause of liberty in our nation.

You’re not convinced? Don’t we need regulation to keep us safe, healthy, wealthy, etc.? I agree, we need some regulation, but the mountainous labyrinth of rules we have now is beyond the pale and may be damaging to safety, health, wealth, etc.

I’m planning to measure some of this red tape, so we understand just how bad it is and provide an understanding of why you need to write your congressional delegation.

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