NOTHING ESCAPES federal laws, not mattresses, not funeral homes - they are on your case from womb to tomb.
Some years back, I went to work in Washington, D.C., not so sure I would like the city, but ultimately finding it fascinating. It hums with intellect and, by some calculations, is the center of the world. You learn a great deal there, such as how that intellect is often put to ill use by people unbearably self-important. When you live in the center of the world, you get that way.
Lunches those days were usually at a Chinese cafeteria around the corner from the building where I worked. The place could get crowded, and you might have to share a table with strangers. Politeness consisted of pretending not to hear what was said, and that’s what I failed to do one day when several regulators were plotting more regulation.
These federal employees could not have been long out of college. I do not remember the specifics of their conversation, just the gist of it. They were talking about successes in cracking down on several industries, and then one young woman chirped that she now wanted to pursue some really tough, hard-hitting regulations for another industry, thereby triggering my own interventionist spirit.
“Why don’t you just leave them alone?” I asked.
You’ve heard of hell’s fury, I guess, and I got a taste of it as the young woman advised me that she served the good of the country, conferred widely, studied hard and was attentively observant of her agency’s legal parameters.
I nodded my head and left, and I belatedly apologize for my rudeness. But I do not apologize to an administrative state that betrays rule of law, reaches beyond obviously needed regulations, bollixes up businesses, makes us billions poorer, plays havoc with our liberties and sometimes increases dangers.
I do not apologize to a Congress that has abdicated its own responsibilities by voting in favor of good intentions and leaving it to bureaucrats to fill in the blanks, and I do not apologize to a Supreme Court that has let agencies get away with this dictatorial adventure.
I certainly do not apologize to presidents who, thinking you can wisely supervise the lives of 300 million people, happily advocate departments, agencies and commissions while increasing their power. This project, which started in the late 19th century, got a blunderbuss boost in the New Deal and has never slowed down much. If anyone thought it might retreat, they weren’t counting on President Barack Obama, Obamacare and the army of new regulations for Wall Street that substitute quantity for quality. The only blessing is that no one will ever make sense of them sufficiently to execute all their likely harm.
This administrative state and the laws backing it lie behind the current wrangle over the national debt. It itself could be ruinous, but is a symptom of the real disease better understood by visiting for a second with Jeffrey Tucker, editorial vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. In a recent piece, he writes about the U.S. code that contains all the laws the government administers, some 356,000 pages “as elaborate and detailed as any set of laws that have ever governed any society in the history of the world.” Nothing escapes their purview, not mattresses, not funeral homes — they are on your case from womb to tomb, no matter where you go, no matter what you do.
Cures suggested by think tanks and others include laws that leave nothing to bureaucrats, formal public procedures on each and every new regulation, a review of old laws that erase some of them and congressional approval of anything sweeping.
One writer argues our administrative state has some pretty dastardly company, including the Chinese Mandarins, European monarchs of yesteryear, Bolsheviks and Nazis. Our practitioners may be perfectly nice, maybe just a well-intended young woman sitting across from you at lunch, but the system is scarily out of whack and needs reform soon.
— Scripps Howard News Service