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August 19th, 2013 4:16 pm
The Sprawling Administrative State
Posted by Troy Senik Print

The bad news: government is growing. The worse news: the source of this growth is unelected bureaucrats and tinkerers not directly responsible to American citizens. From Ben Goad and Julian Hattem at The Hill:

… [N]ew federal rules are accumulating faster than outdated ones are removed, resulting in a steady increase in the number of federal mandates.

Data collected by researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center shows that the Code of Federal Regulations, where all rules and regulations are detailed, has ballooned from 71,224 pages in 1975 to 174,545 pages last year.

As that timeline suggests, this is a bipartisan phenomenon. We cannot lay the blame purely at Barack Obama’s feet, though the data seems to indicate he’s first among equals:

To be sure, the explosive growth in federal rule-making did not begin with the Obama White House. The 13,000 rules finalized during the president’s first term, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), were slightly fewer than those published during former President George W. Bush’s first term.

Yet the quantity of federal regulations is increasing by some measures at a quickening pace.

More “major rules,” those with an annual economic impact exceeding $100 million, were enacted in 2010 than in any year dating back to at least 1997, according to the CRS.

And over Obama’s first three years in office, the Code of Federal Regulations increased by 7.4 percent, according to data compiled by the Chamber of Commerce. In comparison, the regulatory code grew by 4.4 percent during Bush’s first term.

As the piece goes on to note, the two oversized blank checks to the administrative state from the Obama years have been Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, two cases in which the law really is, in large measure, whatever the regulators say it is. The actual legislation is little more than scaffolding.

In a just world, this would be a bipartisan concern. Even if one agrees with the policies coming out of the bureaucracy, after all, the price is losing any meaningful leash on government. Liberals, however, long ago made the decision that limiting government would only be important to them on a handful of boutique social issues and any instance involving law enforcement or national security. When it comes to the administrative state — well, they’re getting everything they want without having to dirty their hands with the democratic process. Why alter such a sweet deal?

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