Hence, DeMuth says, they often pursue their missions beyond the point of diminishing marginal returns with health, safety, environmental and other standards "with costs exceeding any plausible measure of their benefits."
Regulatory power is executive power, which can be checked and balanced only by the other two branches.
But, DeMuth notes, although courts can, under the Administrative Procedure Act, block regulations that are "arbitrary, capricious," or "an abuse of discretion," courts are usually deferential to regulators, partly because courts are usually without requisite scientific or other expertise.
What, then, about Congress, which, as DeMuth says, "has been deeply complicit in fostering regulatory power"?
One proposal is to defer all new "major" regulations until unemployment falls to 7.7 percent, just below what it was when Barack Obama was inaugurated.
But this would leave the regulatory state in place and poised for action on a backlog of major rules.
Another proposal is for a "regulatory budget" limiting the costs each regulatory agency could impose.
But cost estimates would come from the executive branch, and therefore not be constraining.
This defect also infects the proposal (from Virginia's Democratic Sen. Mark Warner) for "regulatory pay-go," under which agencies could issue new regulations only by rescinding existing rules that impose the same cost, or some fraction of the cost, of new ones.
Indeed, any "enforceable" cost-benefit standard will merely empower executive agencies to enforce their preferences.
Hence the importance of Congress and the indispensability of Davis' REINS Act.
t passed the House last December.
But the Democratic-controlled Senate, which will not even take responsibility for producing (as the law requires) a budget, has no desire to restrain the administrative state or to ratify what it does by approving, with statutes, major regulations.
Barack Obama says he would veto REINS.
Mitt Romney says that with or without REINS, he would submit such regulations for congressional approval.
Here, then, is the distilled essence of the 2012 choice:
Obama promises the progressive agenda — more executive aggrandizement, more marginalization of Congress, more latitude for unaccountable experts to supervise our lives, more regulatory suffocation of society.
Romney promises the reverse.
Will may be reached by email at georgew...@washpost.com.