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Monday, December 15, 2014

Over at Forbes is a column about a Supreme Court case dealing with the increasingly arbitrary way regulatory agencies exercise their authority. At one point, the article outlines the problem the case may help address in terms that remind me of the explanation for bureaucratic expansion offered by Ludwig von Mises in Bureaucracy:

... Government officials administering regulatory programs, particularly by bureaucratic staff without electoral constraints, will tend to aggrandize their own authority as each year passes, even with the most benign motives. Broad delegations of power to regulatory agencies are a continuing invitation to churn out more regulations, which almost always impinge personal freedom. Thus, regulatory officials tend to regularly expand their own power at the expense of individual liberty, regardless of the President's ideology.
Not only are lots of things that shouldn't be crimes already illegal, but our current political milieu presents a temptation irresistible to most of our current politicians in the legislative branch to expand regulation. These problems are bad enough, but at least they don't put us so nearly at the mercy of a bureaucrat's whim.

This piece indicates that administrative law attempts to impose some restraints on the regulators, but that it remains necessary for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter. This is because such informal communications as FAQs and internal emails have been treated like these agencies as if they are regulatory rulings. "By Interior's logic, agency tweets also could be 'regulations'", the authors point out. That's the last thing we need.

Until political momentum builds for truly reigning in government to its proper, limited role as protector of individual rights, we should at least ensure that the regulatory process is intelligible and predictable.

-- CAV

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