Report looks at the continuing rise of the regulatory state
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is out with its new look at the state of federal regulation, “10,000 Commandments.” It is a thorough, and thoroughly depressing, assessment of the regulatory state, which the authors say is alive, well and “powering ahead.”
Even during times of supposedly anti-regulation administrations, the red tape grows. The reason is simple: “Agencies always answer the question ‘Is there call for regulation?’ in the affirmative.”
And regulation is taking new and deeply worrying turns:
The government’s overenthusiasm for surveillance is itself a major form of regulation. Consider the following examples.
In 2019, the Trump White House put for- ward proposals to respond to threats of gun violence, supposedly to prevent mass shootings. Those involved efforts to monitor and track individuals with mental illness, or suspected of such, via smartphones and wear- able health-monitoring devices that the FDA likely would regulate.
In September 2020, the Department of Homeland Security sought to increase in- formation collection on private individuals by proposing a costly—over $6 billion— rule “that any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request, including United States citizens, must appear for biometrics collection without regard to age unless DHS waives or exempts the bio- metrics requirement.” The DHS, now one of the costliest agencies, for months had been preparing regulation requiring biometric face scans of all travelers, including U.S. citizens, entering or leaving the country. As The New York Times put it, “Unlike most of the efforts the administration has pushed, the rules intended to tighten immigration standards would expand federal regulations, instead of narrowing them.”
Then, in December 2020, the Trump administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instructed states to submit personal information—including names, birth dates, ethnicity, and addresses—of individuals vaccinated against COVID-19, which raised alarm over misuse of a federal vaccine registry.
The report makes for sobering reading on just how big, expensive, and intrusive the regulatory state is today. It will get even bigger unless the political class, or the states, step in to demand change:
Congress is responsible for the fiscal budget, yet deficits remain the norm. The larger questions are over the role and legitimacy of the administrative state and the role of government in a constitutional republic.
So far, the major political parties have decided they are fine with ceding power to an unelected bureaucracy. It makes their jobs easier and also offers a convenient fall-guy for when policies go wrong. That isn’t a republican form of government. It’s a hustle.