That rationalism went hand-in-hand with another 19th-century phenomenon: that being the steady concentration of state power. Monarchical absolutism may have been on its way out, but Röpke believed that power had in other respects become more centralized, including in countries in which constitutional and democratic forms of government had emerged. This was partly a function of many people wanting governments to do more in the economy, and using their newly acquired voting rights to support politicians who promised to use the state to protect and subsidize industries or deliver welfare programs.
Nor, Röpke argued, had democratic regimes proved resistant to the pressures exercised by well-organized interest-groups intent on acquiring legal and economic privileges at everyone else’s expense. The German economy’s cartelization may have begun in late-Wilhelmine Germany, but Röpke stressed that the advent of the liberal Weimar Republic—“the freest constitution in the world,” as The Social Crisis describes it—had not brought an end to such practices. On the contrary, cartelization and the associated legalized limitation of competition had accelerated. This had made it easier for the National Socialists to bring more and more of the economy under direct state control once they took power in 1933.
The court’s decision has other, broader lessons on agency overreach that should worry the Biden administration in general. From climate change to labor policy and antitrust, Mr. Biden has ambitious plans for transformative regulatory change. Inevitably, that will involve agencies pursuing objectives for which their authorizing statutes weren’t designed—“work-arounds,” as the White House chief of staff characterized the administration’s vaccine mandates.
The problem for Mr. Biden is that placing constraints on the administrative state—including on “work-arounds”—is a defining concern of the Roberts court. All of President Trump’s appointees are arguably more interested than the justices they replaced in articulating a jurisprudence that constrains federal agencies’ ability to assume responsibilities ordinarily performed by Congress, or by the courts.
As if all of this weren’t enough, Illinois lawmakers recently voted to add a referendum to the November 2022 ballot that would enshrine and vastly expand the state’s extreme union powers in the Illinois Constitution. That amendment would deny any chance at future labor reforms and create a new, personal constitutional right that would subject even more labor issues to litigation.
The fact that such a referendum even made it onto the ballot highlights the real issue: Illinoisans keep electing legislators who want to perpetuate the system.
The Chicago Teachers Union has proven again how willing it is to trample on the city’s children. If voters don’t kick out the politicians enabling this behavior, Chicagoans will have no one to blame but themselves.
Țara Henley resigns from legacy media. (HT Bari Weiss)
Citizens and voters adapt their public policy preferences from the political elite–the people who actually determine public policy. One implication is that citizens and voters have less influence over public policy than a romantic notion of democracy would suggest. The political elite tells voters what to think, and they fall in line behind their leaders.