A thousand little tyrants
Obama’s problems are a chance to rein in the bureaucracy

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Article Highlights

  • If there has been a unifying theme of Barack Obama’s presidency, it is the inexorable growth of the administrative state.

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  • First, expand federal powers beyond their enumerated constitutional limits.

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  • Second, delegate those powers to agencies and away from elected politicians in Congress.

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  • Third, insulate civil servants from politics so they can wield their discretion without accountability.

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If there has been a unifying theme of Barack Obama’s presidency, it is the inexorable growth of the administrative state. Its growth, across diverse areas, has followed a pattern: First, expand federal powers beyond their enumerated constitutional limits. Second, delegate those powers to agencies and away from elected politicians in Congress. Third, insulate civil servants from politics so they can wield their discretion without accountability. Finally, force the courts to defer unthinkingly to Congress’s acts of delegation and agency regulation.

Obamacare represents the apotheosis of this administrative state. Congress claimed authority to take over one-sixth of the American economy. But instead of passing the rules for this massive new government program, the large Democratic majorities in Congress vested the power to regulate health care in the Department of Health and Human Services. Even the Supreme Court, with a majority of Republican-appointed justices, did not stand in the way.

This piece appears in the September 16 edition of National Review.

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