Solutions to the Problem of Bureaucracy

Responding to my post on the problem of bureaucracy, some commentators asked how to prevent bureaucrats from creating a bigger and more left-wing government. Here are a few solutions:

1. Delegate less. Conservatives and libertarians should be reluctant to delegate power that is likely to be exercised in a liberal direction. To put it another way, these lawmakers should demand a statute several degrees to the right of where they think it should be if there is a delegation because the bureaucracy will move it several degrees to the left.

2. Pass the REINS Act. The REINS Act would apply to open-ended delegations of power already in place by requiring a Congressional vote under fast track procedures to approve major agency rules before they become law. This act would transfer power currently held by bureaucrats back to legislators. Of course, people on the left realize the constraints imposed by the REINS Act and thus it could not be enacted until the next era of unified Republican government.

3. Mandate cost benefit analysis. Cost benefit analysis could be required by law, unless specifically exempted in a statute. This tool constrains agencies, by requiring bureaucrats to show that regulations have net benefits. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at OMB reviews all cost benefit analyses, which provides a check on the parochial regulatory expansion of agencies.

4. Subject cost benefit analysis to judicial review. This requirement would increase the seriousness with which the exercise is taken and further weaken the power of bureaucrats. Article III judges are not perfect, but they are far less ideologically skewed than bureaucrats, and the judges have no pecuniary or status incentives to expand the agencies’ work.

5. Bring independent agencies within Presidential control. As I stated in the previous post, Presidents have modest powers to recalibrate the bureaucracy, but these powers are even weaker at independent agencies which are insulated from their control.

6. My co-blogger Mike Rappaport once suggested to me that each agency have  a unit devoted to deregulation. His is a very sensible idea, not least because it might attract a different kind of personnel–people more sympathetic to the market than top-down government control.

7. Privatize where possible. Privatization has often been sold as way of gaining efficiency in the bureaucracy. But it can also bring in personnel who skew less ideologically to the left.

These ideas that could have been implemented many years ago but could still be accomplished. In my next post, I will describe some ideas to circumscribe the bureaucracy that are now available because of modern technology.