Below is today’s column in the Washington Post’s Outlook Section on the dangers of America’s growing administrative state. Ask any elementary student and you will hear how the Framers carefully designed a tripartite, or three-branch, system to govern the United States. This separation of powers was meant to protect citizens from tyranny by making every branch dependent on each other to carry out the functions of government. These three branches held together through a type of outward pressure – each holding the other in place through their countervailing forces. Add a fourth branch and the structure begins to collapse. That is precisely what is happening as federal agencies grow beyond the traditional controls and oversight of the legislative and executive branches. The question is how a tripartite system can function as a quadripartite system. The answer, as demonstrated by the last two decades, is not well. The shift from a tripartite to a quadripartite system is not the result of simply the growth in the size of the government. Rather, it is a concern with the degree of independence and autonomy in the fourth branch that led me to write this column.
There were times this past week when it seemed like the 19th-century Know-Nothing Party had returned to Washington. President Obama insisted he knew nothing about major decisions in the State Department, or the Justice Department, or the Internal Revenue Service. The heads of those agencies, in turn, insisted they knew nothing about major decisions by their subordinates. It was as if the government functioned by some hidden hand.
Clearly, there was a degree of willful blindness in these claims. However, the suggestion that someone, even the president, is in control of today’s government may be an illusion.
The growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more fundamental changes within the federal government itself: It is not just bigger, it is dangerously off kilter. Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency.
When James Madison and the other Framers fashioned a new constitutional structure in the wake of the failure of the Articles of Confederation they envisioned a vastly different government. Under the federalism model, states would be the dominant system with most of the revenue and responsibilities of governance. The federal government was virtually microsoptic by today’s standards. In 1790, it had just 1,000 nonmilitary workers. In 1962, there were 2,515,000 federal employees. Today, we have 2,840,000 federal workers in 15 departments, 69 agencies and 383 nonmilitary sub-agencies. [These numbers can be themselves misleading since much federal work is now done by contractors as part of "downsizing" but the work of the agencies has continued to expand. Moreover, technological advances have increased the reach of this workforce].
This growth since the founding has led to increasing power and independence for agencies. The shift of authority has been staggering. The fourth branch now has a larger practical impact on the lives of citizens than all the other branches combined.
already got a 4th branch of government..... They're called "Grand Jury's". These are what We, The People need to prosecute all these illegal, criminal pricks who are destroying the US with. There are 11 states beginning to build their own Grand Jury's, w/ the only intention to get that usurping bastich out of the WH, and bring back the US Constitution in full power.
While I think GJ's are great and I'd like to see some criminal prosecutions, they by themselves don't solve the underlying problem. First step in righting the ship o' State, IMHO, is repeal of 17A. Return to the States their seat at the federal level; it'll put teeth back into 10A [canines and incisors]. This one step would dramaticaly alter the federal/State power equation.
How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time my friend...one bite at a time :)
GJ's gotta better chance.....lol
I wouldn't argue with that :)
great post Vicki!!!
Isn't it the Mainstream Media?