Posts Tagged ‘regulation and its reform’

Could the White House be “tyrant-proofed”?

How would one go about “tyrant-proofing” the U.S. presidency, after years in which many were happy to cheer the expansion of White House power so long as the office was held by someone *they* liked? Key point in Ben Wittes’s 3-part series at Lawfare: the hardest to tyrant-proof are not the extraordinary and covert national security powers held by the chief executive, but the everyday powers over the Department of Justice and regulatory agencies [parts one, two, three].

More: Neither Donald Trump nor his progressive opponents have shown themselves loyal to the principle of the rule of law [John McGinnis, Liberty and Law] Nature of the Presidency lends itself to authoritarianism and despite retrenchment under Coolidge and Ike, that’s been the trend for a century or more [Arnold Kling] And quoting William & Mary lawprof Neal Devins: “A President Trump could say, ‘I’m going to use the Obama playbook’ and go pretty far.” [Marc Fisher, Washington Post] And: Tyler Cowen on FDR, McCarthy, the politics of the 1930s-50s, and “our authoritarians” versus “their authoritarians.”

An agency authorized to propose rescinding other agencies’ regulations?

Missed this post by Mike Rappaport back in December based on an idea he describes in Cato’s Regulation:

The idea is to establish an administrative agency with the power to deregulate – to identify undesirable regulations passed by other agencies and to repeal those regulations. … For example, this deregulatory agency could identify an environmental regulation that is particularly problematic and attempt to repeal it. Ultimately, the EPA might object to this action and the President would have to decide the matter. If Presidents, including pro-regulation Presidents like Obama, get to decide the issue, would the deregulatory agency have any effect?

The likely answer to the final question is “yes, at least at the margins” because every administration, from the most to the least regulatory in its instincts, is the scene of internal debates, and such an agency would probably work to strengthen the hand of regulatory skeptics even if it did not win all of its inter-administration battles.

“The Federal Leviathan Is Crushing Colleges and Universities”

Jenna A. Robinson and Jesse Saffron, Pope Center:

Last year…the Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education—formed in 2013 at the behest of a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and comprised of top university officials from around the country—released a stunning indictment of what it called the “jungle of red tape” produced by the Education Department. The report cited analysis from George Mason’s Mercatus Center that showed federal higher education mandates increased by 56 percent from 1997-2012.

Today, the situation is bleak: There are thousands of pages of federal regulations, and the Education Department has to release “guidance” letters to clarify vague rules once per day, on average, according to the Task Force.

Case studies from individual schools reveal just how burdensome compliance can be. One example comes from Vanderbilt University, which recently analyzed its federal compliance costs and found that they accounted for $150 million—or 11 percent—of the university’s 2013 expenditures. (Vanderbilt announced that for each student, those compliance costs “equate to approximately $11,000 in additional tuition per year.”)

Earlier here. More from reader mx in comments, who notes that the Chronicle of Higher Education has criticized the Vanderbilt number on the grounds that most of the university’s regulatory costs ($117 million of $146 million) is attributed to compliance related to research, which is not necessarily charged to students as tuition.

“Stealth” or “underground” regulation: Congress needs to step in

For decades federal agencies have been exerting their will through informal guidance documents, memoranda, “Dear Colleague” letters, rules imposed in settlement agreements with regulated entities, and so forth, all tending to dodge the constraints that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and similar laws apply to formal creation of regulations through rulemaking. The result is to evade requirements of openness, accountability to the public and courts, and norms of consistency, preannouncement and rationality in agency policy. (See discussion of subregulatory guidance, “underground” and “stealth” regulation here, here, and here)

Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has a new paper documenting the extent of the problem and proposing a variety of ways Congress could exercise tougher oversight.

May 12 roundup

March 16 roundup

Scalia’s change of mind on agency deference

Initially, Justice Antonin Scalia supported the doctrine (Auer/Seminole Rock) by which courts defer to administrative agencies in interpreting the scope of their regulations. Toward the end of his life, however, he changed his mind. And in that change lies a lesson about the tension between the dangers of arbitrariness and abdication in the judiciary, and how the Constitution goes about addressing that tension [Evan Bernick; earlier]

Why regulated academics don’t identify with regulated businesspeople

Missed this outstanding Jacob Levy post from 2014, you should really read the whole thing but here’s an excerpt:

A lot of people a lot of the time underestimate how burdensome, onerous, and intrusive complicated bureaucratic rules and regulations are. …Politically we associate this kind of talk with business owners and managers complaining about government regulation, and that’s not a class to which academics are (as an overall pattern) especially warmly inclined– but goodness knows that academics understand these dynamics when it comes to the administrative micromanagement of our own professional lives. Time that we should be spending researching or teaching is instead spent asking for permission to do so, by humbly seeking to prove ourselves innocent of all sorts of potential malfeasance. No, I didn’t buy a glass of wine with that grant money. No, I haven’t given an in-class exam during the two weeks before finals. No, my study of Plato does not involve potential harm to human subjects or laboratory animals. No, I haven’t made up publications to include on my CV for my performance review. Yes, here’s the proof in triplicate.

I think this is a case in which our biases between groups we like and groups we don’t is especially strong. We are mainly honest competent adults trying our best to do what we’re supposed to do, and they keep getting in our way with these insulting burdensome rules; they don’t take seriously the cost to our time and energy of having to prove compliance constantly, both by paperwork and by subordination to the administrative officials who monitor all of us in order to detect wrongdoing by a tiny few. You are basically suspect characters to begin with, and if we let you get away with it you’d all be running wild, and the other ways you were going to spend your time we don’t really like anyways, and we’re dubious enough about you that monitoring you closely is a good idea anyway even if some of you aren’t technically violating the rules, and the moral cost of even one of you getting away with this terrible thing is so great that we simply have to prevent it, and anyway what are you complaining about, if you obey the rules like you supposed to, there’s no harm to you.

As I say, read the whole thing, which also includes an analysis of the actual likely effects of a typical venture in legislative posturing, a ban on dispensing food stamps to lottery winners.

More recollections of Justice Scalia

“My own anecdote about Justice Scalia is that he once hired me for my dream job because I wouldn’t stop arguing with him.” I set down a few recollections about the great man which are up now at The Daily Beast.

The dream job in question was to help with the editing of Regulation magazine, which in its early years was a project of the American Enterprise Institute (it’s at Cato now). I remember well the magazine’s publication of the classic debate between Antonin Scalia and Richard Epstein on the proper role of the courts in protecting economic liberty, itself based on an “Economic Liberties and the Constitution” conference sponsored by the Cato Institute. By that point Scalia had departed as editor of the magazine and was a judge on the D.C. Circuit, while Epstein continued to teach law at the University of Chicago, where he had been Scalia’s colleague. Scalia begins his piece thus:

I recall from the earliest days of my political awareness Dwight Eisenhower’s demonstrably successful slogan that he was “a conservative in economic affairs, but a liberal in human affairs.” I am sure he meant it to connote nothing more profound than that he represented the best of both Republican and Democratic tradition. But still, that seemed to me a peculiar way to put it — contrasting economic affairs with human affairs as though economics is a science developed for the benefit of dogs or trees; something that has nothing to do with human beings, with their welfare, aspirations, or freedoms.

Epstein’s side of that memorable debate is here, and he recalls it in this new appreciation. [More background on the debate: Roger Pilon podcast]

Archives of Regulation magazine are here. During his editorship (which lasted until 1982), Scalia wrote many pieces both signed and unsigned, and his contributions to the unsigned front part of the magazine can often be identified once you know to look for his distinctive style (often there was one such piece per issue). I was at the magazine from its first 1981 through its last 1985 issue.

More: Earlier here. And I’ve adapted this (with some additional historical material) into a new Cato post, to which Nick Zaiac, Peter Van Doren, and Thomas Firey add a second post analyzing some of Scalia’s signed articles for the magazine during his tenure. I remember that his irreverent cover essay “The Freedom of Information Act Has No Clothes” was the one I most worried some senator would wave about to oppose his confirmation, but nothing of the sort happened. In it he wrote, of FOIA, “It is the Taj Mahal of the Doctrine of Unanticipated Consequences, the Sistine Chapel of Cost- Benefit Analysis Ignored.”

“One effect of all this regulation is to essentially increase the minimum viable size of any business”

Wage and hour, employee classification and Obamacare regulations are transforming the nature of employment, argues Coyote. And in a development that will surprise few of those who watch this area, it’s been another record year for federal wage and hour lawsuits [Insurance Journal]