Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Liberty Amendments vs. Localist Solutions on Limiting Federal Bureaucracy

I have been reading "The Liberty Amendments" by Mark Levin.   I can't help it.  It is like trying to take one's eyes off of a train wreck.   He is quite good at outlining the problems, many are.   It's his so-called "solutions" which reek.   Though the way he sells it makes them sound superficially plausible, when scrutinized it becomes clear that they would be a massive amount of wasted effort.  Even if they could be implemented risk-free, and they can't, they would not solve the problems which Levin claims they would solve.

What I would like to do here is compare his "solutions" for curbing federal bureaucracy with the more subtle, elegant, and effective solutions found in Localism, A Philosophy of Government.   I have done the same comparison with the approach each work has to Judicial Tyranny, Federal Government Spending, and Federal Taxation.   These articles demonstrate that in many ways we would actually be worse off than we are now if we adopted what Levin claims are solutions.

As it concerns the federal bureaucracy, Levin does a fine job of outlining the problem- that Congress has given up much of its law-making responsibility to executive branch bureaucrats.  They write laws with very vague definitions and then allow the regulators to fill in the blanks.  As he does with all of the problems he writes about in The Liberty Amendments,on this issue Levin rushes for a superficial, hamfisted non-solution without ever addressing the root causes of the problem.  Why has Congress done this?   What is the root cause of this problem?  Instead of trying to treat the symptoms as Levin does, Localism treats the root causes.

Why does Congress abdicate its authority to make law to Executive Branch bureaucracies? What is maddening is that Levin correctly answers this question- then suggests non-solutions which don't address the "why" which he acknowledges.  Levin writes:
"It would seem counterintuitive for Congress to surrender its own power to executive branch entities of its own making, and for a President to surrender his own decision-making authority to an administrative state.  But if the purpose is to centralize and concentrate power in the federal government, in defiance of our founding principles and the Constitution,- as the Statists have preached and promoted actively for over a century- then the frequent and broad delegation of lawmaking power to a permanent, ever-present federal bureaucracy, insulated from public influence, makes perfect sense."

Yes, that's it exactly.  Both parties are bought and paid for by global corporate interests.   Congressmen and Senators of both parties don't much care about turf battles with the executive branch, because both are there to consolidate various legislative powers into the executive branch.  They are there to consolidate power on behalf of their respective hierarchy, so that government can "get things done" on behalf of the interests which fund their political club.     The President is also the titular leader of one of the two parties anyway, so half the legislature always wants to get more power to the captain of "their team."

Levin complains that "Congress seems more than willing to abandon its core function to the executive branch and accept the status quo....."   Yes it does, and nothing Levin suggests as a solution will change that.  He admits the purpose of Congress giving away its rule-making authority is to centralize power, but does not say anything about why congress works like that.  Why have they abandoned their instituted function and chosen near-irrelevancy?   It's a result of the party system.   Throwing up a couple of amendments to try and make congress take its job back won't help, because the root problem is that Congress does not wish to do the job the Founders assigned it.  They want to empower the executives, and fund-raisers, of their respective parties.

We need to reform our candidate election system so that it is easier to get good people in office and easier for them to stand against these forces and institutions which facilitate, neigh compel even, centralization.  The unified party system is the flywheel of this monstrous system.  Corporate money spins it.

Levin does not even address the harm that the unified party system has done to our former representative Constitutional Republic.   When I say an "unified party system" I mean that the same political machine through which state candidates are run is also the machine through which federal candidates are run.  And that same machine backs candidates for both legislative offices and executive offices.  

This undermines the intent of the Founding Fathers when they set up our government of checks and balances.   The states were supposed to check and balance the federal government, and at both levels the Legislative branch was supposed to check the Executive branch.   This is the root cause, the reason why our legislative branch is giving away its authority, becoming more despised and more irrelevant.  The unified party system undermines the defining features of our political system, but Levin does not talk about it.  No one wants to talk about it except the localists.

Localism not only mandates institutional separation of political parties by state, it places reasonable limits on incorporation so that they do not become so large as to swallow up our economy and political system.    It also advocates run-offs (preferably instant run-offs) for all elections so that citizens no longer fear "splitting the vote" and electing their least preferred alternative.  This and other measures will empower regional groups within a state to directly sponsor independent candidates for office.  Political parties will get decentralized and de-emphasised in a localist nation.

Regulatory capture becomes a serious issue when giant corporate entities gain too much influence over the agencies which are supposed to be regulating them.  The bureaucracy then serves the biggest players in the industry, and erects barriers to entry for potential competitors.

Corporations in a localist nation can only be owned by real persons, not other corporations.   This prevents the abuse of incorporation to off-load risk into a subsidiary that can be left holding the bag when a giant liability issue arises.   Many regulatory agencies have grown up around managing the risks which grow around that practice- localism would ban the practice, thus eliminating the need for any bureaucracy to manage it.

Regulatory agencies do not have full sovereign immunity in a localist society.   They are liable for their actions in that those bureaucrats who run the agencies can be removed from their jobs by a judicial ruling should an agency be found culpable for exceeding their authority, becoming captured by players in the industry, or other malfeasance.

Not that they would be common at any rate.  In localism, the interstate commerce power of Congress would be extremely curtailed, and that is the source of authority for most regulations.   States can even agree among themselves to suspend a federal regulation based on the interstate commerce clause as it applies to commerce between them.   And suits at common law are preferred over regulatory solutions at any rate.

Compare these measures, which strike at the very root and heart of the problem, with the heavy-handed attempt to bludgeon the symptoms away in Levin's book.   He wants an amendment which says that every agency has to be renewed by a vote of Congress every three years.   How will that help until you first address the root cause that we have a Congress full of people who want to abdicate their responsibilities?

He also wants the amendment to say that all new regulations that will cost over $100 million dollars to comply with  (according to FEDGOV) would have to be approved by a special congressional panel.    In Arkansas, we had a law which said that all school purchases over $5,000 had to be bid out.   Of course what happened is that superintendents split their orders up so that they would have five, ten, or twenty individual orders all under $5,000.   This system would be gamed the same way.  They will just break one regulation into two parts.

That's if they even need to.  The special panel members would be picked by the House Speaker and the Minority Leader.   The most inside of the insiders would be picking trustworthy minions from safe seats to keep up business as usual.  Can you think of a worse way?   These amendments look like window dressing to me- they have the superficial appearance of trying to fix the problem while actually leaving the worst of our system in place.

In conclusion, the problem of federal bureaucracy taking over the legislative function is real.  Nothing in The Liberty Amendments will fix it though, because it attempts to address symptoms, not root causes.   We must go deeper, systemically and intellectually, to the philosophy of Localism in order to return our Republic to the Founders' vision of a just, limited, and decentralized government.

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