Milestones in the Evolution of the Administrative State

Forthcoming in D├Ždalus, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, MIT Press

November 18, 2020

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Abstract

The modern administrative state, as measured by number of agencies, their budgets and staffing, and the number of regulations they issue, has grown significantly over the last hundred years. This essay reviews the origins of the administrative state, and identifies four milestone efforts to hold it accountable to the American people: passage of the Administrative Procedure Act in 1946, the economic deregulation of the 1970s and ‘80s, requirements for ex-ante regulatory impact analysis, and White House review. These milestones reflect bipartisan consensus on appropriate constraints on executive rulemaking, but they have not succeeded in stemming the debate over the proper role for administrative agencies and the regulations they issue. New milestones may be on the horizon related to judicial interpretations, legislative actions, and extensions to executive oversight.