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Fellows with Friedman

The Costs and Benefits of Fragmented Power

David Davenport

According to David Davenport, we are witnesses to the most expansive exercise of federal power since the New Deal. Although we want to return to normal, the big question is whether we will, since the government has a history of taking on special powers and increasing spending during emergencies and establishing that benchmark as the new normal. 

He argues that the growth of federal power is dangerous and needs to be stopped. Click here to learn more.

Richard Epstein

Richard Epstein maintains that big government with fragmented power becomes inefficient. In fact, the federal government has become so big that the vital divide between the federal and state governments is disappearing. Federal officials exert enormous influence over state budgets and state regulators, often behind the scenes. The new federalism replaces democracy, as exercised locally within states, with once-size-fits-all solutions imposed from above. Consequently, uniformity replaces innovation, local choice, and the Constitution’s necessary limits on government power. 

Federal-state integration also creates strong incentives to expand government power at every level. State officials get to claim credit for 30 percent more spending than they raise in taxes without paying any political price for higher taxation. Meanwhile, federal officials claim credit for addressing national problems through the largely hidden use of state resources.

The original Constitution kept overall government intrusion to a minimum by placing most government spending and regulation in the states’ exclusive domain, but that is no longer the case. A common justification for federal overreach is that it allows for administrative convenience, but the Constitution doesn’t exist for the government’s convenience. Its purpose is to protect people from government abuse. By leaving most government spending and regulation within the exclusive domain of states, the original Constitution created a dynamic interstate regulatory competition framework.

Click here to read more. 

Adam White

In his testimony to the US Senate, Adam White argues that bloated, overpowerful, and inefficient regulatory states drag down the economy and undermine the rule of law. He calls for reforming the administrative state, which has increasingly grown powerful in day-to-day governance as Congress and the judicial branch have voluntarily ceded power over time. As a result, we have seen new regulations with minimum oversight and transparency. He notes that Congress long ago delegated regulatory authority to administrative agencies in astonishingly broad terms. And today’s administrative agencies rely on those open-ended statutory authorizations to justify regulatory programs far beyond anything that past Congresses could have expected. 

Reining in the administrative state will require Congress to reassert its constitutional authority as the branch that authorizes and confers powers on agencies.

To learn more, click here.