… is from page 122 of George Will’s splendid 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility (footnote deleted):
Can a federal government that acknowledges no limits to its scope, and that responds promiscuously to the multiplying appetites of proliferating factions, make choices that serve the society’s long-term interests? The answer, based on the avalanche of evidence from current governance, is an emphatic “no.” The evidence is in the rise of the administrative state and the fall of fiscal responsibility.
DBx: George Will is correct to describe the volume of this evidence as an “avalanche.” It is overwhelming. It is long in the making. It is undeniable to anyone not completely blinded by ideological bias.
And yet “Progressives” on the left and “national conservatives” on the right – mainstream intellectuals from Joseph Stiglitz to Oren Cass, and mainstream politicians from Elizabeth Warren to Marco Rubio – utterly ignore this reality. Each arrogantly offers up pet proposals to give to the national government yet more coin and power to mold society and the economy into the ideal forms fashioned in his or her head. These social engineers not only ignore the astonishing complexity of social and economic reality, they are all completely credulous about state power. Because they can imagine this power working the miracles that they wish to be worked, they conclude that we should all be willing to give this power a try. Never mind the historical record. This time it’ll work!
Pictured above are only some of the many volumes of the United States Code of Federal Regulations (the “CFR”) – a collection of the countless extant rules promulgated over the years, and still enforced, by the many agencies of the U.S. government. It comes out annually. In 1994 I walked into the Clemson University library with a tape measure and measured the amount of library shelf space consumed by a single year this of collection. The answer: twenty-six feet, not counting the volumes kept for national-security reasons from the general public.
Surely over the intervening 26 years some of the rules that were in place in 1994 have since been repealed. Yet even more surely, a greater number of new rules have been added.
So I ask you, if you are an American: How much of the CFR have you read? If you’re a lawyer, or have studied law, you likely have read some of this gargantuan collection. Ditto if you’re a lobbyist in DC. But even you have read only a teeny-weeny fraction of it. Yet nearly every page in this dense and overwhelming collection – so large as to be practically unreadable in its completeness by any normal human being – affects the lives of ordinary Americans.
The belief of persons such as Stiglitz and Warren and Rubio and Cass is that a majority vote by 535 professional politicians along with a favorable signature by another politician who is called “Mr. (and one day Ms.) President” in support of fine words on paper – fine words that create a bevy of bureaucratic jobs to be filled by men and women who write more words – many, many, many more words to be recorded in the CFR and enforced, ultimately, with threats of coercion – will rearrange to good effect the actions of hundreds of millions of ordinary men and women going about their daily affairs. The arrogance is astonishing. The detachment from reality depressing. The naiveté breathtaking.