By Christopher Garbacz
America is trapped in a nightmarish, chaotic state. This living nightmare is dominated by the dragon of Imperial Washington, DC. But why not have a dream of mythic proportions? Let’s dream about slaying the dragon.
The administrative state, sometimes called the Deep State, undermines the future of the country. DC is the hub of concentrated power used to control the nation down to the most basic level. If citizens allow DC bureaucrats to determine the size of their shower heads, they will allow most any kind of centralized control. In effect, DC is an Imperial City ruling by edict. This is supported by the fact that the richest five counties in the country are located around DC. These areas and toney DC are where the imperial elite live. This includes highly paid bureaucrats in lifetime jobs, lobbyists, think tankers, the good friends of lobbyists in Congress, and mainstream media enablers. Congress is broken and has no intention of revoking the Imperial City now or in the foreseeable future. What needs to be done?
The capital of the country is in its present location primarily because that was the center of the country when the capital was authorized in 1790. In 2019 the center of the country is somewhere in Missouri. The capital needs to be moved to the present center of the country. This would accomplish several beneficial results. The elites from DC would be forced to rub elbows with ordinary citizens in an ordinary environment. Constituents could more easily interact with those they have elected to represent them. The grandness of DC could be replaced by offices more akin to a country devoid of royalty.
Of course, many currently employed in DC would refuse to live in Missouri. Good, we could have a much needed turnover in the inflexible bureaucracy. Revoking the Civil Service rules of government employee dismissal would help in this regard. A lifetime appointment to the bureaucracy is counterproductive to the best interests of the country.
Unfortunately, a host of federal agencies prevail. It is not clear how many agencies actually exist, but one estimate is about 439. Why do we need so many federal agencies? The reason is simple: to hide the inner workings of DC from citizens. How can citizens follow the ins and outs of hundreds of institutions? Only the lobbyists can do this to their advantage. An efficient government is an oxymoron. The more government, the more chaos. A smaller government will still be inefficient, but the total amount of inefficiency will be reduced.
How many federal agencies should be in existence? Well, 10 or 15 would cover what the federal government is authorized and designed to do. More than 400 government agencies could be eliminated with positive effects. In addition, the states have myriad government agencies as well; many that simply mimic or mirror federal mandates. For example, there are more than 19,000 incorporated places (cities and towns), 3,100 counties, 50 states, several territories, and a plethora of other entities involved in government. So if you eliminated hundreds of federal agencies you would downsize thousands of government units at the state and local levels that are tied to the federal government through regulation and funding.
We know for a fact that unnecessary regulation is an enormous drag on the economy. When you eliminate unneeded regulations it is similar to removing a tax. Such reduced regulation naturally leads to enhanced economic growth. Economic research suggests a resulting economic growth that could range up to 2 percent more per year.
But reduced regulation would surely not be permanent. One administration may reduce regulations. However, a subsequent administration can easily slap the same or more regulations into place. Due to legal challenges most of the Trump deregulations will not be finalized before the end of his first term. If he is not re-elected, the next administration could easily reverse his agenda. The only way to approximate the right mix of regulations for the country on a continuing basis is to eliminate the vast number of unauthorized agencies that can issue counterproductive regulations.
How would you eliminate so many government agencies? Start with one. Candidate number one is the U.S. Department of Education. The federal government has no authority to engage in education policy at the state level. Education is clearly a state authority under the Constitution. So the president could make that argument and withhold funding from the department. This action would find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could strike the agency down on constitutional grounds. Once this process is successfully employed, it could be repeated in numerous other cases. The president could issue an executive order defunding hundreds of agencies that are not constitutionally authorized.
If the capital were moved to Missouri, the DC economy would crash in conjunction with eliminating federal agencies. This would simply be a justified cost of revitalizing the country and disavowing the Imperial City concept. The movement of agencies that remained would be much less costly. Some of the adjustment costs could be offset by limited adjustment payments. To the extent that jobs lost were previously filled by competent workers, the job market would absorb these people as the economy expanded due to enhanced growth over time. A transition period would help smooth the adjustment.
The new capital would still be named Washington, in honor of our first president. The dragon would be slayed. What a wonderful dream!
Christopher Garbacz ([email protected]) has been directly involved in the regulatory arena for more than three decades.