In Robert Bellah’s lecture “Individualism and Commitment in American Life,” he believed that the American individualism would eventually lead to the rule of “administrative despots” originally theorized by Alexis de Tocqueville. In his book Democracy in America¸ Tocqueville questioned if America would be able to preserve the freedom of their institutions, or if those institutions would slowly evolve into what he called “administrative despotism.” Bellah stated that Tocqueville theorized that even with free elections the republic could deteriorate into all forms of despotism. The freedom that Americans had would merely be a façade of reality. Recently Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that she does not work for those who criticize her. The despot of healthcare has spoken. Can we say that Tocqueville was wrong?
The law was something of a major concern to the Anti-Federalists during the early years of the American Republic. They feared laws that were so voluminous and complex that the common man would not be able to understand them. This is the exact problem that America has today. The laws that are introduced and passed in today’s era are so voluminous, and so complex that even many of the legislators do not understand or read them completely. For instance, two laws that perfectly fit this description are the Affordable Care Act and the SAFE Act of New York State. Each presents almost innumerous parameters and regulations that create more problems than they solve, one of those problems being the rule of administrative despots. After all, 20,000 pages of regulations do not simply use the plethora of agencies already in existence, they increase and then-some!
Let’s look at just one provision of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, but not one new doctor. If this law is supposed to supply more people with healthcare, does it not make sense that new doctors will be needed to counter-balance the new patients? Apparently that was not thought out by the writers of the law, but they were more than able to add these “administrative despots” to enforce this new law. Just the phrase “IRS” is enough to make many people shudder, how does having that agency be the executioner of your healthcare? Simply put, the IRS is the despot that enforces the ACA, but the American people have absolutely no say over who works at the IRS.
The SAFE Act of New York State effectively bans most types of firearms legally owned by Americans. This law simply adds onto the plethora of regulations on firearms that New York already has. For instance, to legally purchase a handgun, a pistol license is required. The pistol licensing is handled by the county police departments, not the legislators (administration). Want to get a pistol license in New York? Think again. Almost no one is able to obtain a pistol license, even if there is no reason for them not to be able to do so. What happened to the 2nd amendment in New York? It has been hijacked by administrative despots carrying out the will of progressive legislators. The governmental institutions of New York have placed a rule of administrative despotism, just as Tocqueville theorized.
So where do we stand at now? That is not a question simply answered. The bureaucracy of the federal government, and many state governments, has grown so large that there is a government office for almost anything imaginable. This bureaucracy is created by legislation, but the legislators do not suffer the repercussions that the citizens do. Elections are still free, and citizens think that simply voting out those who voted for such bureaucracy will make the problem disappear. How misguided they are. As stated by Ronald Reagan in 1964, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!” While this may be a dark observation, these administrative despots are here to stay unless extreme reform and cuts are introduced by legislators. Yet again, give a man a fish he eats for a day; give him a fish every day and he is a slave (think EBT and Dept. of Agriculture).