The tyranny of Obama’s EPA

| May 21 2012
Christopher Cook

You might argue that the video in the previous post has a happy ending, so we shouldn’t be too concerned. After all, the federal government has an “ombudsman” who took care of things. But all the ombudsman did was stop the bleeding. This man’s business never should have been bled in the first place. And thousand of others have bled to death on the federal bureaucracy’s cutting room floor.

That’s what bureaucracies do. Once they have been given the power of regulation, they have something very close to legislative, executive, and judicial power combined.

They did not write the base legislation, but today’s regulatory legislation is usually so complex that no one knows for sure just how many laws and rules have been created.

Legislation so large suffers from the “knowledge problem”; it cannot possibly foresee every eventuality. So the bureaucrat fills in the gaps, creating whatever may be missing. He legislates.

Such legislation also cannot create a regime of operation for every circumstance. It cannot tell the bureaucracy exactly how to go about implementing the legislation. So, like the judiciary, he interprets.

The legislation gives the bureaucracy the power of enforcement. Many federal bureaucracies actually have their own armed personnel to perform raids and enforcement operations. They no longer need the executive branch and its power of enforcement. The bureaucracy is an executive unto itself.

Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is not the only such bureaucracy, not by a long shot, but they are one of the more enthusiastic offenders. This is what Alexis de Tocqueville warned us of.

WHAT SORT OF DESPOTISM DEMOCRATIC NATIONS HAVE TO FEAR:

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

A small business ombudsman is a band aid. Tocqueville’s warning has come to pass. The administrative state is now a sovereign power over which there is little control. Without a simple and precise guide, individual bureaucrats may interpret as they wish and rule by whim, as a despot. No one can stop them, because the bureaucracy is so large, and the rules so numerous, that no one knows what is even going on.

This is a systemic problem, and it will only be truly fixed with systemic changes.

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