The Jury Talks Back


Steve Bannon at CPAC: Trump Will Pursue “Deconstruction of the Administrative State”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

I know, right? That headline sounds like a really good thing, doesn’t it? Naturally, the Washington Post, where Democracy Dies with Distraction and Deception, tries to portray this as a scary development, articulated by a “reclusive mastermind”:

The reclusive mastermind behind President Trump’s nationalist ideology and combative tactics made his public debut Thursday, delivering a fiery rebuke of the media and declaring that the new administration is in an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

. . . .

Appearing at a gathering of conservative activists alongside Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Bannon dismissed the idea that Trump might moderate his positions or seek consensus with political opponents. Rather, he said, the White House is digging in for a long period of conflict to transform Washington and upend the world order.

“If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken,” Bannon said in reference to the media and opposition forces. “Every day, it is going to be a fight.”

. . . .

Bannon framed much of Trump’s agenda with the phrase, “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president says have stymied economic growth and infringed upon U.S. sovereignty. Bannon says that the post-World War II political and economic consensus is failing and should be replaced with a system that empowers ordinary people over coastal elites and international institutions.

I’d be standing on my feet applauding if I didn’t know that this is accompanied by a desire to put ruinous tariffs on foreign goods. But let’s not let that particular bit of economic ignorance overshadow the point of this post: the joy we should all feel at an administration that seemingly wants to take an axe and start chopping down the forest of regulation that is choking off economic growth in this country.

The administrative state has become one of the greatest threats to liberty in this country, in large part because of its trashing of the separation of powers. Bureaucracies pass regulations like a legislature, enforce them like an executive, and rule on the validity of their own actions like a judiciary, with administrative law judges who are arms of the same bureacracies whose regulations they review. Meanwhile, Congress abandons its role in the process, and judges defer to the agencies’ interpretations.

But Donald Trump is fighting back. His admittedly ham-handed executive order — requiring two regulations to be repealed for each one passed — may be a meat cleaver . . . but that may be what’s required here. It actually creates incentives for agencies to do away with regulations, and that’s a good thing. Trump’s signaling that he would sign the REINS Act, by which Congress would take back explicit responsibility for reviewing significant regulation, is another positive step. (It’s been passed by the House. What’s taking so long, Sen. McConnell?) Finally, by nominating Neil Gorsuch, who has opposed excessive judicial deference to bureaucracies as a dangerous threat to the separation of powers, Trump has attacked the administrative state from yet another angle (whether he realizes that or not, and I doubt he does).

Something else I have noticed: it’s a lot easier to appreciate some of the actions taken by Donald Trump during periods when he keeps his mouth shut, his Twitter feed largely quiet, and his administration free from ridiculous publicity-seeking controversy.

Let’s hope he keeps that up, even as we recognize that he most definitely won’t.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


  1. I’m very, very glad that Trump talks the conservative talk. Now it’s time for him to walk the walk. He’ll do that when he gets Gorsuch confirmed, writes/implements immigration orders that actually work, and eliminates federal regulations instead of creating incentives for other people to do it. Yes, Trump gets credit for doing some of what a real conservative would do and I’m very glad he is listening to conservatives now that he is President. I hope it lasts and he follows through.

    Of course, he could also use his famous deal-making abilities, powerful bully pulpit, and Twitter account to pressure Congress to pass legislation that repeals ObamaCare, instead of playing golf every weekend. But I don’t think he cares about doing that, anymore than he wants to confront the DACA/DREAMer issues. He loves to talk. Let’s see what he will spend political capital on, or if he will punt the tough stuff to Congress.

    Comment by DRJ — 2/24/2017 @ 10:18 am

  2. So far, in the main, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by Trump.

    I did vote for him, but I did so in the expectation he’d be awful – just not as awful as Hillary. Had I known then what I known now, I’d have voted with far fewer reservations.

    Sure, he does stuff I don’t like (Like leaving DACA in place – if that’s to be done, that’s the job of Congress, not Trump). And every time he does something I dislike, I remind myself what Hillary Clinton would be doing.

    I’m delighted on the move to ax red tape. I’ll also be delighted if he buts in a border adjustment tax against low-wage (unlike) economies – if it’s done right. If. If. If.
    BTW, no, I haven’t changed my views on trade because of Trump; I’ve held such views (Regarding low wage economies) far longer than he has.

    So far, Trump is doing pretty well, I think – and doing so in spite of (or perhaps because of) the strongest media/leftist (but I repeat myself) opposition ever.

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 2/24/2017 @ 12:05 pm

  3. I respect your view, Arizona CJ, although I hope Trump ends up being the most conservative President since Reagan and not the biggest populist since Jackson.

    Comment by DRJ — 2/24/2017 @ 2:16 pm

  4. Can’t he be a populist conservative? In many respects that’s what Reagan was.

    Comment by Kevin M — 2/24/2017 @ 7:55 pm

  5. A populist conservative must have strong principles tied to the Constitution. Reagan had them. You tell me if Trump has them.

    Comment by DRJ — 2/24/2017 @ 8:21 pm

  6. I think Trump is a populist. He embraces the concerns of ordinary men who struggle against the elites, and he has no clear principles beyond what is popular with his base. Fortunately, for now, he seems to be listening to conservative advisers. But he isn’t able to consistently articulate conservative, let alone Constitutional, principles so I don’t think his actions are based on fidelity to conservatism.

    Comment by DRJ — 2/24/2017 @ 8:28 pm

  7. When the big boys who run big media figure out that if they go to him with hat in hand, pump his ego at a reconciliation meeting, and then go easy on him for awhile, DJT will revert to laying ball so long as his ego is being fed, y’all can kiss buh-bye to the “principled” DJT we’ve seen thus far.

    Flattery will get the left ever so much further. Do they have it in them to temper their evil impulses?

    We’ll get a first inkling in Atlanta today. It appears they have figured out they cannot afford to have a radical Muslim as their Chairman.

    Comment by Ed from SFV — 2/24/2017 @ 10:47 pm

  8. Ooops…forgot to mention that Schumer was quite right when he observed last week that the GOPe in the Senate and House leadership will take DJT down and not the Dhimmis.

    The odds of DJT staying principled by demanding Obamacare be ripped out by the roots and insisting on big league tax reform when he is presented with the classical BS “reforms” that the elites typically come up with? Immensely poor.

    DRJ is absolutely correct to doubt DJT’s resolve on even his core issues.

    Comment by Ed from SFV — 2/24/2017 @ 10:53 pm

  9. “Conservative” is such a slippery word.

    Are tariffs “conservative” or “liberal”? It keeps going back and forth.

    Comment by Kevin M — 2/24/2017 @ 11:56 pm

  10. All words are slippery to people like Clinton, Obama and Trump.

    Comment by DRJ — 2/25/2017 @ 4:47 am

  11. Right tariffs were a staple of 19th century whig and gop politics, central banking was not.

    Comment by narciso — 2/25/2017 @ 6:26 am

  12. It is not at all clear to me that tariffs are more “ruinous” than other forms of tax. Nor more susceptible to abuse, unintended consequences, cheating, favoritism, etc. Nor more risky than other forms of federal intervention in markets like setting a minimum or “prevailing” wage figure, or bailing out a politically favored industry, or subsidizing a particular product.

    It’s somewhat odd to consider that Bush Jr is now a historical figure … but consider his actions with a “protective” steel tariff. Okay, it was a “wrong” move under economic theory. Would it have been any better to pay subsidies to customers who agreed to buy U.S. made steel rather than imported? Or to require federal state and local governments to buy U.S. steel at a “prevailing” set price instead of a market price? Or to nationalize the U.S. steel industry and “save the jobs” ? Or just to let the industry skip income taxes for a year or so? Once the political and economic decision is made to intervene in the market at all, to deliberately distort the trends and move things in a different path — does it much matter whether the mechanism of distortion is tariffs or other tax or regulatory change? If Bush and say the governor of Pennsylvania had jawboned a major steel-maker and persuaded the company to “stay” and “save jobs” and “re-build infrastructure” via some package of sweetheart targeted favors — would that have been better than a protective tariff?

    Comment by pouncer — 2/25/2017 @ 7:02 am

  13. “I respect your view, Arizona CJ, although I hope Trump ends up being the most conservative President since Reagan and not the biggest populist since Jackson.” DRJ

    I hope that as well, but I’ll happily take mediocre (if he turns out that way) over the alternative (HRC).

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 2/25/2017 @ 4:10 pm

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