The burden of overregulation weighs heavily upon American industry. It saddles the business world with burdens that stifle initiative and diminish profits.
One Supreme Court decision that reinforces and codifies this government regulation is Chevron U.S.A. v. National Resources Defense Council. The 1984 ruling over a Clean Air Act regulation held that when confronted with ambiguous provisions of federal statutory law, judges must defer to the reasonable interpretations of agency officials over any others.
This blank-check approach to the law made it difficult to challenge oppressive regulation and further empowered an already top-heavy bureaucracy. Soon, Chevron became the rule to make all rules.
Now, Chevron is being challenged, and it is about time.
A Tool of the Political Parties
Chevron has been used by both political parties to advance their goals. The Reagan administration used it (some say for the good) to curb leftist judicial activism, trying to block its de-regulatory program. Liberals have used it (most say for bad purposes) to add layers of regulations to laws that promote their leftist ideology.
Most recently, Chevron has been used mainly by the left. What is problematic about this SCOTUS precedent is not just the socialistic regulations but how the coercive power of the State is instrumentalized by the left to curtail and chill private initiative and free enterprise.
Shielded by Chevron, instead of the infamous “legislating from the bench,” judges now defer to the executive branch’s radical interpretations and “execute [laws] from the bench.” The rash of White House executive orders can be sourced back to the Chevron privilege.
Thus, Chevron has been used in tens of thousands of cases to give power to technocrats. Some have labeled the ruling as the Roe v. Wade of federal rulemaking. Under its blanket referrals, anything can be justified. Most frequently, common sense is sacrificed.
A Fishermen Protest Goes Rogue
Conservatives have finally managed to challenge Chevron.
It began innocently enough with a simple case. Atlantic herring fishermen in New Jersey and Rhode Island provided the pretext.
The National Marine Fisheries Services interpreted an ambiguous 1976 statute as meaning that fishing vessels must carry federal conservation monitors on board certain voyages at a cost of $700 a day. When the fishing companies protested the cost (not to be found in the statute), the federal government prevailed, relying on Chevron.
The fishermen’s appeal ended up on the Supreme Court docket, where the court chose not to limit the case to the narrow issue of fish monitoring but to enlarge it by questioning Chevron’s framework used to overregulate. Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and a similar case now await judgment.
Positions of the Left and the Right
Predictably, the left supports the Chevron deference option, enlisting the help of labor, environmental, and civil rights activists. They are only too willing to arrogate to the federal government all the powers needed to regulate and hamstring the lives of citizens. The rule of technocratic experts is part of a leftist utopia where everything is decided by government officials who constantly infringe on the space and freedoms of the citizenry.
Those opposing Chevron have no problems with consulting with experts on complex issues. However, they contest the systematic favor enjoyed by government agencies over all other experts. The one-size-fits-all nature of many state regulations fails to consider other factors that might benefit production or services.
Those involved in the business know that organic developments and processes are also needed for human flourishing. Indeed, the fishermen claimed they were the most interested party in maintaining herring populations.
To reduce everything to rigid government rules and processes easily leads to an abuse of power and the stifling of economies.
The True Nature of the Left’s Mania for Regulation
Regulations have a limited yet vital role in keeping order in society. However, the tendency to reduce everything to regulations using tools like Chevron is problematic.
The leftist mania for overregulation is much more a moral than a legal issue. It is drawn from the left’s materialistic worldview that refuses to consider any spiritual or moral dimension to things.
The incomplete vision does not correspond to reality. Thus, the left tries to make its system work by imposing its skewed perspective upon society by regulation. There is never enough regulation in a leftist regime.
The Socialist Conception of Life
According to the left’s conception of life, only matter exists, and the primary purpose of life is to avoid all risk and suffering and maximize pleasure and passions to the greatest possible extent. This program must take place in the context of total freedom and equality. Everything must be regulated to provide a platform for this unrealistic utopia.
Socialists also deny the notion of sin and fallen nature. Thus, they believe all misfortunes and sufferings are by nature unjust. The proliferation of regulations supports systems, structures and entitlements that supposedly overcome or mitigate the sufferings of life.
It never works. It only ends up with calls for ever more regulations in the vain hope of reaching this utopia where nothing goes wrong and everything is unrestrained.
Three Roles of Overregulation in Socialist Society
Thus, overregulation has three roles to play in a socialist society.
First, the regulations replace morals in keeping some sense of direction in a society where every vice is allowed. The government must intervene in everything with regulations to prevent suffering or unhappiness. Social workers and bureaucrats abound to create and implement regulations.
A cold, sterile pseudo-order reigns supreme. In a socialist world, no one can be blamed for laziness or negligence. Instead, unjust systems, social structures like the family, and, ultimately, God are to blame when things go wrong. Government intervention is needed to diminish such threats to well-being.
Regulations as the Great Equalizers
Second, regulations are the great equalizer in a socialist society. Everyone is a number in the face of these rigid rules. Since inequality is a source of suffering in the leftist ideology, regulations make sure everyone is treated in the same mechanistic fashion without nuance or mercy.
This regulation prevents the formation of self-regulating associations based on the principle of subsidiarity, which allows people to develop their trades more freely and creatively.
Regulations also promote equality by carrying forward the class struggle narrative in which regulations protect the oppressed classes from negligence and supposed abuse by the oppressor classes.
Overregulation Facilitates Decadence
Finally, overregulation helps facilitate the destruction of Western Christian society and social structures, which is in line with leftist goals.
In a society where Christian virtue, especially charity, is practiced, a simple framework of rules is enough to keep things functioning well. Where vice reigns, the contrary is true.
To the degree that people lose virtue, regulation proliferates to curb abuses. Every transgression against the State begets a new regulation that is supposed to prevent further abuses. Soon, the government books are full of regulations, putting bureaucrats in charge of the smallest things. And still, the process never ends. As the chaos grows, it requires exponentially more regulation for ever more minor situations or processes.
The socialist system destroys a framework of virtue that requires effort, suffering and selflessness. It replaces it with a system of resentment, envy, and control.
A Promise Never Fulfilled
Such is the mentality behind the Chevron deference. The overturning of the ruling will significantly help those who oppose the drift to socialism.
However, it will not resolve the problem of overregulation. The real solution, however, consists of rejecting the liberal proposition that the purpose of life is to minimize suffering and maximize pleasure. It calls for refusing to embrace a life reduced to regulated pleasures and bland mediocrity.
Such a proposition does not respect the reality of fallen human nature that explains life’s suffering. It does not include God’s loving Providence that provides the elements to overcome these obstacles.
Count on socialism to never deliver the happiness it promises.
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