The greatest power of government to affect the daily lives of Americans may be wielded by federal, state and local regulatory officials who never stand for election. Environmental regulatory actions by the U.S. EPA serve as a stark reminder of the power of the administrative state. EPA utilizes rulemaking and administrative fiat to determine the kind of vehicles we drive, how much we pay for energy to heat our homes and power our factories and what types of appliances and light bulbs we can buy.
Elected officials are all too eager to empower the administrative state to make the unpopular decisions that impact us most. Politicians at the federal and state levels of government pass environmental laws containing broad language and leave the details up to regulators. When those same politicians are confronted by angry voters, they can conveniently blame the bureaucrats for the inevitable unintended consequences of their ill conceived legislative actions.
For example, Congress passes an energy law that drastically increases the amount of bio-fuels that must be blended into the nations gasoline supply. EPA responds by upping the amount of ethanol that can be blended in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. The new gas pumps installed at service stations that can only be used by motorists with vehicles that are 2007 or newer — leaving environmentalists, service station owners and motorists disgruntled.
An even greater danger to our representative form of government is when bureaucrats ignore the rule of law to pursue to their own agenda. The New York Times reports that Shawn M. Garvin, the politically appointed EPA administrator for the Mid-Atlantic Region, has decided that a permit granted to Arch Coal in West Virginia should be revoked. Whatever one's view on mountaintop coal mining, the proposed action by a high-level EPA official to revoke a lawfully granted permit is a serious threat to the rule of law.
The U.S. has historically been a nation that is governed by law. Actions that erode the rule of law are a serious threat to the personal freedom and economic well being of Americans. No rational individual or company is going to invest in a country where their investment is not secure.