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20151114 The Rule of Nobody


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The main idea is that American government system arrived to the point of paralysis when bureaucracy greatly impedes nearly all activities, dramatically decreasing quality of live. This is result of huge overuse of laws and regulations, which prevents people from applying initiative and practically removes individual responsibility of bureaucrats. There is no easy remedy, so it could be done only via addition of 5 new amendments to constitution that author proposes.



This starts with example of a tree that fall into the creek. It had to be removed, but some official recalled that it is C-1 type creek so it took many days for bureaucracy to approve tree removal. This is as fine example as any of bureaucracy’s paralyzing impact on American everyday live.

Part I The Rule of Nobody


Here author provides more examples of bureaucratic activities or more precisely lack thereof and makes 2 propositions:

  1. America has lost the ability to make public choices
  2. Doing anything well requires human energy and judgment, but if left to bureaucracy all energy goes to career building and nothing is left for getting something actually done.

Author supports the first proposition by describing huge negative impact of regulation on ability to do what needs to be done. The second proposition is stating the obvious fact government regulation redirects human energy to jumping through bureaucratic hoops in order to get permission to do something instead of actually doing something. Consequently it becomes a lot easier to avoid doing this something


This is discussion of lawyerization of American live and tendency of democratic government to create insurmountable mountains of legal rule to limit ability to act for public officials. Here author makes another two propositions:

  1. Regulating with precise dictates undermines the goals of law in most social activities
  2. Compulsive distrust of human choice is anti-democratic


As effective alternative the author proposes is to give much more space for decision making to government officials setting up clear objectives and leaving them to decide and act as they wish in order to achieve objectives. As example he provides Australian reregulation of nursing houses, which materially improved lives of their customers by giving more discretion to bureaucrats. Two propositions are:

  1. Regulating by principles revives human responsibility
  2. Regulators should focus on results, not punishment


Here author discusses boundaries of law that in his opinion defined in America way too narrow limiting human ability to act according to specific requirements. The proposition is:

  1. Official authority requires an open area of choice defined by legal boundaries

This would mean practical expansion of legal boundaries allowing bureaucrats more space for actions.


The traditional American attitude is that ideology of bureaucracy is that it has no ideology. The same applies to morality: bureaucracy should be amoral. Neither of these two ideas is conceivable in reality. This leads author to the next two propositions:

  1. Public choices that avoid values soon embody bad values
  2. No act of government is morally valid unless it can be justified as being in the common interest


This is a brief, but interesting review of relations between human action of judges and law either codified or common. It starts with original constitutional discussion when Madison stressed that piece of paper could not possibly govern, but it rather men who do it, but constitution should provide framework for such action and keep them within commonly accepted rules. Author then goes into history discussion creation of administrative law and regulations as methods of governing without responsibility.


After reviewing process of governing, which is always done by real people, author comes up with 3 more propositions:

  1. Law must empower officials to apply social norm
  2. Authority properly understood dramatically expands freedom
  3. American Government must be rebuilt on the principle of human responsibility

Part II Restoring Human Control of Democracy.


This chapter starts with an example of infinite continuity of governmental programs due to impossibility of decision makers to stop them, even if there is 0 chance of such program to be approved now. Then it goes to abdication by Congress of its constitutional responsibility to legislate and transfer of this responsibility to bureaucracy. This situation practically led to triumph of lawlessness because infinite number of laws and regulations and their huge complexity practically allow bureaucrats to do whatever they want.


Here author is trying to show that this situation could not possibly keep going for a long time and dramatic changes are coming. He makes a few more propositions:

  1. Clean house: Congress should appoint independent commissions to propose simplified codes in each area
  2. All laws with budgetary impact should sunset periodically
  3. The President must have effective powers restored
  4. Judges must act as gatekeepers, dismissing invalid claims


Author believes that traditional democratic election and free press do not provide citizens with sufficient control over government and proposes additional measures:

  1. America needs a Council of citizens to oversee government
  2. Fixing democracy is a moral imperative for citizens, not just for public officials

Appendix: Bill of Responsibilities–Proposed Amendments to the Constitution

Amendment XXVIII: Sunset of laws

Amendment XXIX: Increase in presidential authority including line item veto

Amendment XXX: Complete presidential power over personnel in executive branch

Amendment XXXI: Limitations on lawsuits

Amendment XXXII: Establishment of Council of Citizens to oversee government


It is very good analysis supported by numerous examples of government going wild. I agree that situation will lead to drastic measures and I believe it would be more drastic than anybody can imagine now. I would guess that it would be on the scale of New Deal if not bigger because it would have to clear huge pile of laws, regulations, and, most important, change established habits of mind. Hopefully it would lead to completely new legal arrangement for society with a lot more freedom to act than Americans have now. The alternative of continuing on the same path for a long time seems to be unfeasible, because it would lead to continuing deterioration of quality of live and Americans are not known for accepting such outcomes without fight.

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