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Since this question has come up more than once in recent conversations on this site, I will address it. Our republic is based upon the doctrine of the separation of powers, which was first fully articulated by Montesquieu in his Spirit of Laws, and which was subsequently adapted by the Framers of the American Constitution and defended by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist.
It is based on a functional division of governmental powers between the legislature, which makes laws; the executive, which enforces them; and the judiciary, which judges particular cases. At the heart of the doctrine underpinning our Constitution is the principle that powers cannot be delegated – that the legislature cannot execute the laws or judge particular cases, that the executive cannot make laws or judge particular cases, and that the judiciary cannot make or execute laws.
The separation of powers is a device for making government at a distance from the people visible, for encouraging legislative prudence and executive responsibility, and for making those who govern us accountable. It encourages public deliberation; it virtually guarantees that there will be low-level conflict between the branches of government; and it makes each branch a watchdog over the others.
The administrative state is based upon a concentration of all three powers – which Montesquieu thought incompatible with liberty – within a single executive agency. In a fashion that constitutes an abrogation of the Constitution, Congress sets up administrative agencies, empowers them to issue regulations having the force of law, to enforce these regulations, and to judge infractions. What this means is that most of what is done by our government takes place in camera behind closed doors – out of sight and out of mind.
Congressmen and Senators love this. It means that no one is accountable for unpopular measures, and it means that they are not held responsible. When I suggest that the administrative state be eliminated, I mean that we should return to constitutional government and the separation of powers – that, before taking effect, every regulation proposed by an administrative agency be discussed in the House and the Senate, be voted on and passed by each of the two legislative branches, and be signed by the President. Then, the government would be visible: we would know who is responsible; we could hold them accountable; and, if need be, we could replace malefactors with honest women and men.