Ending the Federal Monopoly on Regulation

Posted: Jun 08, 2017 12:01 AM
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Not too long ago, Democrats complained about Republican governors and state legislators using their authority to fight Obamacare. Now, those same Democrats are encouraging state and local officials to fight President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris treaty on climate change.

Such hypocrisy is, of course, bipartisan. Republicans who lauded state resistance to Obamacare are deeply troubled by state and local resistance to the Trump Administration on immigration and other issues.

The blatant hypocrisy is one of many factors contributing to a toxic political dialogue. The only way to reduce both the hypocrisy and the political tension is to do something that neither party wants to do when their team is in charge -- disperse power more broadly.

No matter how much the political class wishes it were true, one-size-fits-all solutions simply can't work in a wonderfully diverse society like the United States. Rules that make sense for life in Washington, D.C. or New York City are often absurd in Michigan or Colorado. To catch up with the reality of a decentralized pluralistic society, it is time to decentralize political power and shift ever more decision-making authority to state and local governments.

Unfortunately, America's political class has spent the last several decades going in exactly the wrong direction by centralizing power in a Regulatory State. Based upon the flawed premise that leaders in official Washington know what's best for the rest of us, they have worked to insulate the bureaucracy from any accountability to Congress and the American people. Such a regime is a fundamental rejection of our nation's historic commitment to freedom, self-governance, and equality.

While 21st century life does need a set of rules and regulations, the power to set them should be taken away from 285,000 distant bureaucrats and brought closer to home. Congress can put the American people back in charge by passing a simple modification to the federal rulemaking process.

Just about all federal regulations should be set to automatically expire after five years (allowing for a handful of exceptions like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). As the regulations expire, they would instantly become state regulations. Each state would then have the responsibility for enforcing the regulations within their borders.

Just as important, each state would have the authority to modify the regulations to fit their particular circumstances. California and New York might make different modifications than Idaho and Texas, but that's a good thing because the states are so different.

The advantage to this approach is not that state regulators are wiser or more honorable than federal regulators. With the past 24 hours, I've had a run-in with some particularly idiotic regulations in my home state of New Jersey. But, when the rules are established on a state-by-state basis, the people hold the ultimate decision-making power.

That's because we have more power as consumers than we do as voters. While we rarely think of it, states are always competing for residents and businesses. The average American moves 12 times during their life and nearly half live in a different state from where they were born. Bad policies hurt a state's ability to compete and that reality places serious limits on state regulators.

To move America forward, we must end the arbitrary power of the Regulatory State. It's time to return power to the people.