Blurred Branches: The Problem with Bureaucracy

Many academics have distinguished the New Deal as the piece of legislation that catalyzed the ‘administrative state’ into power. The implementation of such expansionary pieces of government policy required the construction of various commissions, boards, and agencies, alike. This elevated the influence of the federal government on the American public to levels nearly unheard of prior in the American system.

Not only did this signal the beginning of, increased federal government power in Washington, D.C., but also the emergence of greater unaccountability, and undemocratic and unchecked institutions governing our intended framework of federalism.

These very institutions that have such a gargantuan effect on American life have been met with massive debate of late, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the ‘Net Neutrality’ regulations instituted by the Obama Administration in 2015. Public uproar has ensued, as citizens question the decision made by these members – that is, five individuals with the capacity to dictate policies of such a staggering impact to the American people and the free markets.

That being said, this is not meant to argue in favor of or against this decision by the FCC. There are many cogent arguments on both sides of this issue, each deserving more than the succinct nature of my article here. What this piece will attempt to argue, rather, is that the very premise and power of these institutions, such as the FCC, are contradictory to the intentions of a limited government, like the American Republic.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves, if we are to have a government that is by the ‘consent of the governed,’ where did such an entity’s mandate originate? There was no election by ‘the people’ to grant this sort of decision-making capability and thus no solidarity, which may be granted no less than by confirmation through the democratic process. It seems the argument is that the role of a bureaucrat is to facilitate the enforcement of the policies passed by Congress.

This is justifiable – this is quintessentially the role of the executive branch, per Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, it is the other aspect of the argument that is more petrifying. This can be contributed to the rhetoric that submits that, due to ambiguous nature of legislation, these institutions should reserve the right to implement stipulations in the manner with which they see fit.

However, the dichotomy in these circumstances lies in the realities regarding what is at stake. The more power that is legislated away by Congress through the perceived obscurities of its policy, the more essential it will seem for the administrative state to create more regulations by which to be abided.

What is marginally comforting, at least, is that this has become an on-going debate. The ramifications of distributing such unchecked power are detrimental to the values of limited government that we have become intrinsically disposed to cherish in the United States.

These institutions contend that they are fulfilling the duty vested to them through congressionally-passed legislation, and while they are perhaps doing so in good faith, it is categorically unfounded by nature of the American system.

The federal government has attempted to rectify such undemocratic means of governing through its creation of ‘dialogue’ between bureaucrats and citizens, via websites such as regulations.gov. However, this attempted solution still bypasses Congress. Creating this means of communication only perpetuates the problems associated with bureaucratic rule-making, particularly in light of the Wall Street Journal’s investigation that uncovered fraudulent usage of the regulatory commentary. This undoubtedly sways the perceived opinions surrounding proposed rules and regulations.

This will inherently lead these agencies and commissions to what they believe to be a destination founded in public support and the betterment of the society for which they serve; when in reality, they are making rules inconsistent with what may have overwhelming public support – not to mention the idea that one polity cannot effectively design policies for a Nation with the degree of diversity of individuals, religions, cultures, and identities that the United States obtains.

To conclude, the United States was idealized by the notion that we would institute, to be cliché if I may, a government ‘by the people, for the people.’ As such, the laws passed must be passed in the public eye, with democratically-elected officials, so that the constituents may hold them accountable for the decisions reached and the implications that are to be eventually realized.

These individuals who dedicate themselves to public service are most nearly doing so in faithful service to their Nation. Nevertheless, the government process was designed to be slow as to not shift with every passing emotionally-driven triumph or plight. Thus, it is time to return to the true governing our Framers would see fit to the noble federalist system with which they bestowed upon us, a limited government mandated at the outset to protect societal peace, freedom, and order.

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