The power of America’s current bureaucracy is evident in its role in shaping and carrying out legislative acts. Experts argue that American legislation is the result of an “Iron Triangle” of competition and cooperation between special interests, bureaucrats, and elected officials. Bureaucrats cultivate relationships with special interest groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation or National Rifle Association, to gain access to valuable statistics and private industry information. Bureaucracies and interest groups both independently develop relationships with elected officials, either cooperating or competing to influence legislative debates. This triangular relationship affects each stage of the legislative process, from the formulation of ideas to their final implementation.
The Iron Triangle has produced a highly complicated system of governance than no one person understands completely. Each year, the Office of the Federal Register prints out the laws, administrative codes, and regulations passed by Congress and federal bureaucratic agencies. The Federal Register for the year 1936 was a little over 20,000 pages long. By 1966, the yearly total was closer to 80,000 pages, where it has remained almost each year since. Because no single person can read and retain that much information, the various laws and administrative codes are often contradictory, creating loopholes that special interests and bureaucrats can both use to subvert the political process and evade accountability to the American people.
The upshot of all of this is that the American people are highly regulated, which is something that, by definition, undermines their individual liberties. Consider the fundamental tension between regulation and public order, and individual liberty as you watch this video:
- The Amish only have to go to school until they are 14. Do you believe high school should be compulsory? Why or why not?
- Do you wish you could be as “free” as the Amish (without necessarily having to live their lifestyle)? Why or why not?
- Do you believe, on balance, that more of your daily decision-making should be regulated by the government? Or less? Why? What are the benefits and costs to more regulation? What about the benefits and costs to less?
This reading is an excerpt from Certell’s Common Sense Government eBook. Certell offers curriculum materials and eBooks free of charge for use by students and teachers. Click Here to download the Common Sense Government materials.
Clay Bennett, cartoonist. 2, Nov. 2018 Government Bureaucracy [Digital image]. Retrieved from <google.com>.