Opinion—Federal Agencies Threaten Our Democracy

Jul 5, 2017

The unchecked power of Federal agencies is a far greater threat to our democracy than most people realize

By Don Wallis

I’ve expressed my concern that, given Congress’ long standing refusal to pass meaningful legislation, presidents have filled the power void by creating federal agencies that create regulations and enforce them through autonomous courts bypassing both Congress and the court system.

Others share my concern. In an editorial in the June 10-11 edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled The Tyranny of the Administrative State, John Tierney interviews Mr. Philip Hamburger, a legal scholar, who has addressed this issue in his book-  Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

Mr. Hamburger argues persuasively that the unchecked power of federal agencies threatens to destroy American democracy. “Sometimes called the regulatory state or the deep state, it is a government within the government, run by the president and dozens of federal agencies that assume powers once claimed only by kings.”

“Essentially, much of the Bill of Rights has been gutted…The government can choose to proceed against you in a trial with constitutional processes, or it can use an administrative proceeding where you don’t have the right to be heard by a real judge or a jury and don’t have the full due process of law.”

Mr. Hamburger has suggestions for remedying this imbalance of power.

“One would be to make government officials financially accountable for their excesses.”

Like some many others in this country, he recommends that Congress take responsibility for, and control of the legislative process. Congress, not federal agencies should enact the regulations agencies enforce.

Federal courts pay undue deference to legislative decrees and the rulings of administrative courts. “Mr. Hamburger’s chief hope for reform lies in the courts, which in earlier eras rebuffed the executive branch’s power grabs.”

It remains to be seen whether those in a position to confront and reduce the power of the administrative state will do so.


The Tyranny of the Administrative State, John Tierney, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 10-11, 2017.


Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.