White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attended the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday in his first public appearance after Donald Trump's inauguration. Sitting next to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Bannon stated that President Trump wishes to "deconstruct the administrative state." He insinuated that Trump's cabinet picks demonstrate his commitment to overhauling a system of governance that they find problematic for taxes, regulation, and trade.
Here are four aspects of the administrative state that people should understand:
1. It violates the separation of powers dictated by the Constitution.
The framers of the Constitution vested a specific amount of enumerated powers in a legislative branch, an executive branch, and a judicial branch. However, as the Heritage Foundation explains in a 2012 report titled "From Administrative State to Constitutional Government":
[T]he administrative state violates the principle of the separation of powers by breaking down the divisions between the constitutional branches of government. Power is transferred from Congress to agencies and departments, which are then influenced by all three branches of government but not directly accountable to any, and the effect of checks and balances is reversed. All of the branches work together to control the unwieldy administrative apparatus that often combines all three powers of government—legislative, executive, and judicial.
How do administrative bodies successfully do that?
2. It creates an additional set of laws.
Traditionally, laws used to only come from two sources: The judiciary (known as common law) and the legislature (known as statutory law). With the rise of various executive and administrative departments, a new subset of laws (aptly known as regulatory law) have emerged over the past few decades that carry the same amount of weight as common and statutory law. However, as an extension of its violation of the Constitution's separation of powers, administrative law could create judiciary procedures for those who violate federal regulations outside the scope of the judicial branch. The Heritage Foundation's report further explains:
In specific cases where an employee alleges that an employer is engaging in“unfair labor practices” (a vague phrase that is defined, of course, by [National Labor Relations Board] rules), the employee’s allegation is typically resolved in a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge. These administrative law judges issue decisions on behalf of the agency. Employers who receive an adverse decision by the NLRB’s administrative law judge can appeal to…the NLRB.  The NLRB itself decides several hundred cases per year, and only about 65 of those cases are appealed to an independent“Article III” court. While the circuit courts are called upon to review the NRLB’s orders, the agency boasts on its website that“The majority [of cases]—nearly 80%—are decided in the Board’s favor.”
The rise of regulatory law came with a handful of consequences for the American people, including but not limited to:
3. It hamstrings the economy.
Back in 2013, Patrick McLaughlin of the Mercatus Center wrote in US News:
A study in the June issue of the "Journal of Economic Growth" – authored by John Dawson of Appalachian State University and John Seater of North Carolina State University – estimates that federal regulations have reduced economic growth by about 2 percent per year between 1949 and 2005. They find that if federal regulations were still at levels seen in the year 1949, current GDP would be $38.8 trillion higher. While that number seems extraordinarily high, a number of other studies have similarly concluded that regulatory accumulation slows down economic growth.
McLaughlin suggests that regulations adversely affect entrepreneurship, which would create additional jobs and bring new products to the market. In addition to stifling consumption spending, it also acts as a tax in some cases:
If the Department of Transportation sets a higher fuel efficiency mandate for cars, then cars become more expensive, just as if the government imposed a new tax on vehicle purchases.
By having these regulatory bodies incorporating additional taxes and checks into economic transactions and affairs, it harms the economy and prevents it from reaching its potential in a free enterprise system. It also harms individuals looking to receive specific kinds of medicine for severe health conditions. For example, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prevented the sale of Zidovudine, commonly known as AZT, in the United States while it was approved in Europe and other countries affected by the epidemic.
4. It can impose political agendas outside the scope of our constitutional government.
Since administrative bodies do not always receive the same checks and balance systems that Congress, the Presidency, and the judicial courts are constitutionally mandated to perform, they have free reign to incorporate new laws and regulations that could promote an agenda. The best example of regulatory overreach is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which according to Americans for Tax Reform imposed nearly 4,000 regulations during the Obama administration:
The compliance costs associated with EPA regulations under Obama number in the hundreds of billions and have grown by more than $50 billion in annual costs since Obama took office. Such high costs, especially those related to the energy sector, ripple throughout the economy, impacting GDP, killing thousands of jobs, and increasing the cost of consumer goods.
Bannon's comments about Trump and the administrative state suggest that instead of using the administrative bodies to impose an agenda that suits their interests, they wish to lower the governmental burden of regulatory law and allow the United States to be run almost solely by our constitutionally-framed government. This would be a welcome development for those who wish to see additional autonomy for American workers and individuals as well as the draining of a bureaucratic nightmare that many voters believe have gone off the rails for decades.
One should hope Trump and Bannon keep their word.