Newsletter: Darkest Before the Dawn

(July 10, 2019) Every successful presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter has run on a platform of reining in Washington bureaucracy. It’s odd, then, that the phalanx of Democratic candidates think they can win by promising ever-more-public-benefits. Americans want change, and the electoral needle will swing wildly until they get it.

While national political discourse offers only heat, not light, rays of light are visible from certain states. Governors from both parties have started to clean out obsolete and redundant laws—including Gina Raimondo from Rhode Island, Brad Little from Idaho, Ralph Northam from Virginia, Doug Ducey from Arizona, and Charlie Baker from Massachusetts. Here’s a report by James Broughel from Mercatus.

Although getting no attention from President Trump himself, his own Office of Management and Budget has proposed a serious rationalization of overlapping and duplicative federal programs, such as consolidating food safety oversight under the Department of Agriculture. The OMB report quotes Philip on the need for structural overhaul. Here’s a summary by AEI’s Roslyn Layton.

The undisciplined junk pile of regulatory accretion, however costly, is not the worst of Washington. The main regulatory villain is the rigidity of rules that prevent practical daily choices throughout society, in schools, hospitals, and workplaces. Citing Try Common Sense, Quin Hillyer at the Washington Examiner last week argued that the only way to “drain the swamp” is to reboot regulation to allow Americans to make practical choices—replacing thousand-page rulebooks with simpler, goals-oriented frameworks. Hillyer also recommends who should take on this responsibility: “Virtual President Hillyer would appoint a commission to propose from-scratch legislation …. The commission chairman should have a reputation as relatively nonideological. The choice is obvious: Philip Howard himself.”

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