The Dangers of: The Powerful, Bureaucratic Executive Branch

This is the third piece in “The Dangers of: The Series.”

With every passing presidency the executive branch is growing bigger and stronger.  For the State of the Union, the President marches down the aisle of the House of Representatives resembling a monarch basking in the glory of his greatness.  The executive branch was never meant to be this powerful and is moving closer towards an oligarchy, and farther away from being a constitutional republic.

Lets take a step back to 1788 the  and look at what the founders had in mind.  The Constitution is the framework for setting up the government.  Article 2 of the Constitution is the framework for setting up the executive branch and is intentionally placed after the legislative branch to signal that the legislative branch is the most important.  As you may or may not remember from your civics class, the legislative branch is in charge of making the laws and regulations and the executive branch is supposed to approve and carry out the laws made by the legislative branch.  They set it up this way so power is being spread between more people and multiple branches instead of the power being centralized.  This is not what is happening in today’s policy making.

The way that it’s working now does not even have a resemblance to what the founders intended.  What is happening now is creating “regulatory dark matter.”  What is supposed to happen is the legislative branch gets presented a problem, comes up with a solution to the problem and creates the laws and regulations that solve the problem.  What is happening now is the legislative branch is presented a problem, they create an executive branch agency dedicated to the problem and the agency creates the laws and regulations that solve the problem.  This has literally created an unknown number of agencies in our federal government.  Senator Chuck Grassley said, in 2015, “The Federal Register indicates there are over 430 departments, agencies, and sub-agencies in the federal government” but no one knows how many there actually are.  The Administrative Conference of the United States lists 115 agencies in the appendix of it’s “Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies” but notes

[T]here is no authoritative list of government agencies. For example, [maintained by the Department of Justice] lists 78 independent executive agencies and 174 components of the executive departments as units that comply with the Freedom of Information Act requirements imposed on every federal agency. This appears to be on the conservative end of the range of possible agency definitions. The United States Government Manual lists 96 independent executive units and 220 components of the executive departments. An even more inclusive listing comes from, which lists 137 independent executive agencies and 268 units in the Cabinet.

We have the US Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Interior, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of Treasury, Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the list goes on and on.

These agencies both create and carry out the laws and regulations in their selected fields.  This eliminates any sort of checks or balances and centralizes all power to these agencies.  Centralizing power is bad on its own, but the seriousness of this goes even deeper.

The agencies listed above employ 4,137,200 people and that is only 15 of the 115+ agencies that our executive branch consists of.  The employees of these agencies are all either hired by the agency itself or appointed by the President.  These agency employees are not even voted on by the people of the United States.  This means that, not only do we individually not have any say in policy making, but even the people that we vote for virtually have no actual say in policy making.

This is virtually the definition of an oligarchy and almost the complete opposite of what the founders envisioned for this country.  Policy makers are not beholden to the people of the United States and are given almost full control of all law and regulation in the field of their agency’s jurisdiction.  Sure, the constitutionality of these laws and regulations can be challenged in the judicial branch, but that completely eliminates the need of the legislative branch, which the founders thought was the most important branch of government.  The legislative branch is the most republican form of government (in terms of form of government, not political party.)  The founders never imagined that the legislative branch would willfully and almost anxiously hand its power to the executive branch.

We need to put an end to the oligarchic and bureaucratic executive branch we have today and return to the idea the founders had of an actual 3 branch system that allows checks and balances that works for the American people.

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