Quote of the day

From The Claremont Review of Books:

Or if one wants to be generous, this kind of bill [i.e. Obamacare] will mean what the bureaucrats, in conjunction or conspiracy with their congressional overseers, say it means. In short, these bills are not so much laws as administrative to-do lists. They are contrivances fit only for the modern liberal state, ambitious to regulate all local and state affairs from the center, which means through a bureaucracy of experts or so-called experts. The result is not a government of laws but of men, albeit men who think themselves wise. You might think that high-ranking officials like Pelosi, Dodd, and Baucus would rebel at becoming appendages of the administrative machine, that, valuing their duties as lawmakers so highly, they would insist on reading and even writing the bills themselves. In the past, congressmen did rebel against, as one of them put it, becoming part of "a city council that overlooks the running of the store everyday." But once the national government assumed, in political scientist John Adams Wettergreen’s phrase, "responsibility for the socio-economic well-being of every American," then somebody had to mind that store, and Congress cut its pattern to its cloth.

Obamacare creates 159 new bureaucracies—programs, commissions, boards, and other agencies. Some are quite small, but almost every one empowers unelected officials to wield power over the future content and provision of health care. There’s the Pregnancy Assistance Fund, the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, and the Cures Acceleration Network, for example. In most cases the Secretary of Health and Human Services is charged with creating these entities—part of the breathtaking power delegated to the secretary under the Act’s provisions. In fact, it’s not so much the length of the Act as its vagueness, incompleteness, and amorphousness that mark it as a new-fangled administrative statute, granting power to a few to rule according to their wisdom and with very little reference to the many’s consent. Which is to say, the law’s meaning is deliberately indeterminate, left vague so as to give maximum discretion to the unholy trinity of bureaucrats, congressional staffers, and private sector "stakeholders" who will flesh out the Act with hundreds, probably thousands, of pages of regulations, and then amend those as needed later on. When favored interests and constituencies want to appeal a regulatory decision, they will always find a helpful congressman ready to intervene on their behalf with the very bureaucracy he helped create.

This new kind of statute—one hates to call it law—is not meant to be "a settled, standing rule," as John Locke defined law. On the contrary, it is meant permanently to be in flux, always developing and subject to renegotiation. It is law constantly suffused with wisdom, albeit constantly changing wisdom. It is what passes for law under a "living Constitution."


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