Get It in Writing

Looking over the details of the New School case as reported in this news article, one point in particular stands out:
According to New School Director Sue Miller-Hurst, she went to the county initially. “When we looked at this site in 2004, we sent a school architect to the county for a conditional use permit and he was told we did not need one because we were a public school. When we wanted to change a classroom, the owner’s contractor went to the county for a building permit and was again told, ‘You are a state school; we have no jurisdiction to issue you a permit.’ When I went to Supervisor Horn regarding a piece of land that had been pre-approved by the Division of State Architects for a school site, he said, ‘You are a public school. Stop asking and go forward.’ I asked him to put it in a letter and he said, ‘That would be asking. You are a public school and you do not have to ask.’ Then they show up in force the second day of school with no notice or warning and shut our kids out of their classroom [for alleged lack of permits]. At some point we have a reliance issue. We should be able to rely on the answers we are given from the county."
Governments, and large organizations generally, run on documentation. It is their lifeblood. When a government official gives an assurance regarding the application (or lack of same) of government regulations that he is unwilling to put into writing, the wise man will immediately become suspicious.

This case has all the elements in it that have collectively made for tyrannical government in the modern sense: the capricious application of inexplicable regulations, the diffusion of responsibility across a faceless bureaucracy, the decision that the parties involved are guilty until proven innocent (after spending a great deal of their own money), the total lack of regard for the real-world consequences of regulatory mandates. Plus, it surely cannot be an accident that the target in this case is a charter school, i.e. a novel institution that is free from much of the government's raft of regulations.

How did it happen that the power to make law is most in evidence not in the various legislatures, but rather in the faceless regulatory bodies? We have no easy recourse; we have no way to punish those who overreach. The regulators have no incentive to regulate well, only to regulate heavily; they are America's greatest bastion of corruption and graft, simply because of their untrammeled power and protection from consequences. (Not to accuse the principles in this case of corruption; there has so far been no evidence of same. But the point still stands.)

I will give the final word here to the recently-deceased champion for freedom, Dr. Milton Friedman:
Given our monstrous, overgrown government structure, any three letters chosen at random would probably designate an agency or part of a department that could be profitably abolished.

1 comment:

Francis W. Porretto said...

The point I most like to make is that the Constitution did not grant Congress the power to delegate its legislative authority. Wherefore, then, can any body other than Congress make law -- that is, declare certain actions compulsory and others forbidden, with noncompliance punishable by the forces of the State?

Similar questions can be validly asked at the state and county levels.

It's high time for a Constitutional renewal.