The authors of Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty begin their treatise by defining the goals of the administrative state and the process those in power use to bring it into being.
The goal of these elites, they write, has been to establish a centralized state run by a caste of experts who indoctrinate and administer a mass of compliant workers. To accomplish this goal, the expert class must question absolute truths, lawmakers must increase the executive powers of the presidency and decrease the states’ ability to hold the federal government accountable, and the elites must manipulate the masses into a compliant mindset willing to accept these changes.
Brilliance of Founding Documents
The authors explain the brilliance of the United States’ founding documents, replete with the belief in a creator and a reverence for the citizen as the foundation of liberty. Progressive activists have undermined these premises by constant revisionist history, through the highlighting of personal flaws of the Founders and the diminishment of the stories of the nation’s great heroes and their personal sacrifices. This process constituted a gradual but persistent denigration of the wisdom, greatness, and citizen empowerment enabled by the nation’s founding principles.
Diminishing State Power
The authors say the first step in the breakdown of the states’ power and substitution of central government control was the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, to allow a national income tax. Giving the national government the power to tax the entire citizenry directly prevented states from having true representation on issues affecting their sovereignty.
Other steps to diminish state power came from large federal land ownings within states, incentives to accept federal regulations, direct funding to local taxing bodies bypassing the state legislatures, and the creation of quasigovernmental agencies, which the authors call “ghost governments,” through public-public partnerships and public-private partnerships within states and regions.
Courts, the authors point out, upheld the application of these methods, commonly ruling state and local taxing bodies’ acceptance of incentives justifiable as “contracts.” In addition, the courts regularly use the Chevron Deference Doctrine, in which a federal government agency’s interpretation of laws is preferred if the court deems it reasonable within the context of the statute, further expanding the rule by experts.
Federally funded research is frequently used to create a national narrative to manipulate people into accepting increased government control for the professed common good. Federal research grants are handed out with a clear bias to propagate results that fit the big-government experts’ desired narrative and enable self-perpetuating control by the administrative state.
Education at the Root of It
The authors argue government-funded education was the major avenue the experts used to forge acceptance of their rule.
Teachers colleges were formed and aided by two huge and influential teachers unions: the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). These colleges trained teachers to persuade children to accept the experts’ desired paradigm shift, and they now work to maintain that ideology. NEA and AFT produce studies, reports, and new curricula designed to push the preferred narrative. This process led to the spread of new pedagogies which focus curricula on social problems instead of educational fundamentals, thus imposing a social ideology in place of the rich study of content necessary for true education.
Furthering the National Narrative
Further concentrating power at the national level, U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett commissioned the A Nation at Risk report in 1983. Instead of being used to roll back government intervention into schools, the report provided justification for rapid expansion of diktats and schemes for controlling education at the federal level.
Parents accepted this expansion because of the dire warnings from the experts. States and local districts were incentivized, meaning bribed, to accept these federal mandates. States that wanted to do something different were forced to apply for waivers, putting the federal government in near-total control of what curricula makes it into the classroom.
These tactics led the country down the road to No Child Left Behind (2001), the Common Core State Standards (2009), and the latest national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015). Each placed more control in the hands of the administrative state, regardless of what parents want.
Rolling It Back
The authors end the book with recommendations every lawmaker should read, about rolling back the administrative state. At the federal level, the authors call for passing the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, overturning the Chevron Deference Doctrine, sending full authority over state functions back to the states, prohibiting direct agreements between the national government and local taxing bodies, eliminating mandates for local taxing bodies to join such agreements and allowing them to withdraw at will if they do join, changing federal land policy, and eliminating ghost governments.
At the state level, the authors recommend prohibiting all contracts and grants from federal entities unless approved by the legislature, raising reporting thresholds for monies from federal entities, creating a Commission on Federalism, and calling on Congress to pass legislation reestablishing state sovereignty.
It’s a long list and an uphill battle, but the actions outlined in this book are necessary to restore the type of government our brilliant founders envisioned.
Lennie Jarratt ([email protected]) is project manager for education transformation at The Heartland Institute.