Tuesday, July 21, 2015

From Legislation to Regulation to Executive Order

I keep coming back to the notion that in its campaign of "fundamental transformation" the liberal ruling class is setting itself up for a massive reset.

My point is that liberals and the left misunderstand politics at a fundamental level. Politics is not a transformative process. It is simply the brute force that is applied after ordinary social cooperation fails.

Katie Pavlich hit the spot today in an article reporting how the government is putting certain Social Security recipients on the government's list of people that can't buy guns. The Obamis have come up with a cunning plan to control guns by denying guns to Social Security recipients that have someone managing their benefits.

Amazing! How come nobody ever thought of that before? Katie writes:
If legislation fails, try for regulation. If regulation doesn't work, issue an executive order.
But that doesn't quite do it for me. My point is that when you have started in with legislation you are already making a mess. Because legislation is the camel's nose of force under the tent.

When you decide that Americans can't save for retirement on their own and need to be forced to do so by a government program then you have made the fatal step. You have gone beyond a pushing a cultural norm, that we should all save for our old age, to the rigidity of a government system: everyone will save for retirement, or else. And system is domination.

And so with every new law, we contract the zone of peaceful cooperation and we convert it into a hierarchical system where free people are reduced to subordinate drones.

That is why great legislative programs are usually passed in Congress with bipartisan majorities. Even though each and every bill passed in Congress and signed by the President is an exercise in force and coercion it is still thought necessary to hide the mailed fist of force with the velvet glove of consensus. We all want to pretend that we are all free people.

Unfortunately there is a problem with this newly created law. Legislation is a very blunt instrument with which to guide the behavior of millions of people. So regulation is necessary, to deal with the thousand and one contingencies that were not thought of in the original legislation. Hello Obamacare.

But regulation by bureaucrats and appointed commissions does not pretend to be the harmless consensus implied by a jovial bunch of politicians from both parties getting together while the president signs a bill into law in the Oval Office. It is just political appointees making a decision with the help of staff and the special interests.

Unfortunately there is a problem with newly created regulations. They are hopelessly inadequate to deal with the complexities of real life out in the world. And, of course, they tend to lean in favor of the current political party in power, its bribed apologists and its supporters.

Even so, the process of regulation is not fast or convenient enough for the supporters of the president's party. They want action, Now!  So presidents are reduced to the expedient of executive orders.

Now in my view there is another factor in play. I believe that the liberal ruling class, over the decades since the Reagan administration, has become more and more frustrated with their inability to manage the United States into a proper expert-led system. It has become harder and harder to pass big legislation; so they have developed various strategies for implementing their agenda by regulation. We have seen this is numerous ways in the Obama administration, from the FCC turning the internet into a regulated utility to the National Labor Relations Board rewriting labor law on the fly and now the HUD regulation to direct suburban land-use planning from on high to enforce proper diversity in housing.

And now we have President Obama's Iran deal that has been passed by the UN Security Council before Congress even had a chance to vote on it.

But it has become harder and harder for liberals to get the results they want with regulation. For one thing, as F.A. Hayek wrote in the 1940s, the man in Whitehall (where the UK bureaucrats work) cannot begin to know what a million consumers and producers know. So the liberal ruling class has needed the emergency device of the executive order to implement the top-down managerial policies they want in order to make society progress.

But I think this is a monstrous and strategic mistake.

In the first place it is a mistake to imagine that you can replace the infinitely adaptable universe of market relations with a single government program. But people do this all the time because they are afraid of economic change. This was the situation in Europe in the mid 19th century when Marx and the socialists came out with their grand plans to tame capitalism. Something had to be done as the economy was being completely transformed by the textile revolution and the steam revolution.

But since the first intervention inevitably fails, due to the man from Whitehall problem, the government's economic managers have to rely on regulation and modification of the original plan to shield people from the mindless march of capitalism. This is called the Law of Unintended Consequences.

And since the regulations fail to produce the results required, the liberal ruling class demand that the president use his phone and his pen to implement their agenda anyway.

But this is a terrible mistake, the kind of mistake committed by military juntas. No wonder, for army officers are military bureaucrats, not practical elective politicians. They just aren't very good at making the arbitrary ukases of government bureaucrats look like the freely assented consensus of the people.

I think that the Obama administration will play out in a "backlash" for decades, as ordinary people come to experience in detail the cruelties and injustices of the programs regulated and executive-ordered into existence in the eight Obama years.

Because the basic fact is that the Obama agenda has been implemented without the consent of the governed.

This shows that the liberal ascendancy is approaching its point of inflection. It no longer tries to obtain the consent of the governed. It just rolls over the sheeple and deploys its bully boys to cow them into submission.

But when a ruling dynasty is reduced to bully boys it is a sign that it is approaching its denouement.

Hey liberals! Humans are social animals. All this force you have deployed is a fundamental denial of our human nature.

Unfortunately, in the years after Obama, it is not going to be a case of simply repealing the laws and the regulations and the executive orders of cruel and unjust liberalism. It's going to be much more complicated and much more ugly than that.

No ruling class ever goes quietly. Nor do its supporters.

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