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November 17, 2016

Time to Put an End to Rule by Regulators


Americans like to pat ourselves on the back regarding the 20th century triumph of free-market capitalism over centrally planned Communist systems. But the truth is, we’ve never undone the terrible mistake we made in the 1930s of exchanging economic freedom for centralized rule by experts.

Today, far too much of our economy and far too many rules affecting persons and businesses are dictated to us by the unelected. Congress writes vague laws and leaves vast, open-ended power of interpretation and enforcement to unelected regulators, and the courts have unwisely decreed that regulatory agencies have the right to define the extent of their own authority (Chevron deference).

Many of these regulatory agencies, like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), date back to the 1930s, when Franklin Roosevelt and his progressive New Dealers expressed their absolute faith in rule by experts and distrust of free markets by creating agency after agency designed to run segments of the economy from the top-down.

Today, even though we know that central planning doesn’t work, and that no group of experts possesses enough knowledge or brainpower to know how a particular industry should work, we still defer far too much power to these agencies. As champions of free markets and limited federal government, Republicans should make it a policy priority to structurally reduce through legislation the power of federal agencies.

Of particular interest to us here at IPI has been the continuous, excessive overreach of the FCC, which has repeatedly been slapped down by courts as it exceeded its authority in order to pursue the pet ideas and agendas of its last several chairmen. It’s time now to rein in the power of the FCC, so that the communications industry is not continually subjected to the whims of a particular activist chairman. And permanent structural limits on the regulatory power of the FCC can only come through congressional action.

As we have recently been reminded, an agenda implemented through executive orders and regulatory fiat can be just as easily undone. Lasting change requires legislation passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president.

It’s not enough to simply reverse several of the FCC’s recent ill-advised rulemakings once Republicans control the agency, though that will be welcome. It’s time to permanently rein in the FCC’s scope and authority by passing laws that limit its powers.


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