Law and the Regulatory State is a little essay, my contribution to American Exceptionalism in a new Era, a volume of such essays by Hoover Fellows. It takes up where Rule of Law in the Regulatory State left off.
A few snippets:
A few snippets:
To be a conservative—or, as in my case, an empirical, Pax-Americana, rule-of-law, constitutionalist, conservative libertarian—is pretty much by definition to believe that America is “exceptional”—and that it is perpetually in danger of losing that precious characteristic.
So why is America exceptional, in the good sense? Here, I think, economics provides a crucial answer. The ideas that American exceptionalism propounds have led to the most dramatic improvement in widely shared well-being in human history.... Without this economic success, I doubt that anyone would call America exceptional.
Despite the promises of monarchs, autocrats, dictators, commissars, central planners, socialists, industrial policy makers, progressive nudgers, and assorted dirigistes, it is liberty and rule of law that has led to this enormous progress.
I locate the core source of America’s exceptional nature in our legal system—the nexus of constitutional government, artfully created with checks and balances, and of the rule of law that guides our affairs. And this is also where I locate the greatest danger at the moment.
The erosion of rule of law is all around us. I see it most clearly in the explosion of the administrative, regulatory state.This is the main theme:
the rules are so vague and complex that nobody knows what they really mean.. the “rules” really just mean discretion for the regulators to do what they want—often to coerce the behavior they want out of companies by the threat of an arbitrary adverse decision.
The basic rights that citizens are supposed to have in the face of the law are also vanishing in the regulatory state.
Retroactive decisions are common,..
I fear even more the political impact. ... The drive toward criminalizing regulatory witch hunts and going after the executives means one thing: those executives had better make sure their organizations stay in line.
The key attribute that makes America exceptional—and prosperous—is that candidates and their supporters can afford to lose elections. Grumble, sit back, regroup, and try again next time. They won’t lose their jobs or their businesses. They won’t suddenly encounter trouble getting permits and approvals. They won’t have alphabet soup agencies at their doors with investigations and fines... We are losing that attribute.
In many countries, people can’t afford to lose elections. Those in power do not give it up easily. Those out of power are reduced to violence. American exceptionalism does not mean that all the bad things that happen elsewhere in the world cannot happen here.Always be optimistic though:
The third article in exceptionalist faith, however, is optimism: that despite the ever-gathering clouds, America will once again face the challenge and reform. There is a reason that lovers of liberty tend to be Chicago Cubs fans.The other essays are great. Niall Ferguson basically thinks exceptionalism is over.