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QOTD: Lazy Law Update April 13, 2011

Posted by federalist in Judiciary.
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Richard Epstein provides the latest installment of this recurring feature:

Law is not just an idealized system of rules: It also involves the public administration of those rules by a wide range of elected and appointed officials in an endless array of particular circumstances. For those who would defend a just legal order, the basic challenge is to strike a proper balance—between limiting the discretion of these officials so that they do not undermine the rule of law, while also allowing them enough leeway to perform their essential roles.

Lately in America, we have done a poor job of preserving this balance. In practice—and, increasingly, in legal theory—government officials have been given unprecedented ability to make exceptions to the law, both in enforcing it and in respecting the rights granted under it. Indeed, the past year has seen two of the most enormous pieces of legislation in U.S. history—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—make the imbalance far worse. Both laws seek to dramatically transform vast swaths of the American economy; both give enormous power to the government to bring about these transformations. And yet both laws are stunningly silent on exactly how these overhauls are to take place. The vague language of these statutes delegates much blanket authority to government officials who will, effectively, make the rules up as they go along.

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