A new documentary film attempting to throw light on the rise of government power wielded by unelected experts–known today as the fourth branch of government or the administrative state—launched online on Jan. 27.
This unaccountable administrative state, which is reined in at the margins by the courts from time to time, is why laws today largely come from administrative agencies, not from elected lawmakers responsible to voters, the documentary argues.
The film “Trust Us” by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a Sacramento, California-based national public interest law firm that specializes in challenging government overreach, traces the growth of the modern administrative state that empowers bureaucrats—instead of the people’s elected representatives—to manage American society according to their preconceived notions of how the country should be run.
Directed by Chase Kinney and produced and written by Joseph Kast, the film features Amity Shlaes, author of “The Forgotten Man”; Roger Koppl, author of “Expert Failure”; former CIA analyst Martin Gurri; and PLF senior attorney Steve Simpson. Also featured are a bevy of academics, including George Mason University’s Don Boudreaux, along with two Hillsdale College professors, Joseph Postell and Kevin Portteus.
The overarching theme of the film is that in nearly every aspect of American life–from the food you eat to the house you live in to the way you raise your children—there’s a powerful expert somewhere in the federal government who thinks you’re doing it wrong. And these experts have accumulated more and more power for themselves at the expense of the constitutional system of limited government and checks and balances that the nation’s founders hoped would govern the country.
This rule by experts reached its apex in the government’s perceived overreaction to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which led to clampdowns on individual liberty in order to combat a disease that was a threat only to a tiny percentage of the population. With the cheerleading of government science experts such as Anthony Fauci, the government showed that it can make people so frightened about a problem that they can be stampeded into eagerly surrendering their freedoms, according to the film.
The idea of scientific management of industry was promoted by Progressive Era mechanical engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor, who’s credited with bringing assembly lines to U.S. factories. Critics say this efficiency expert’s ideas created “Taylorism,” a cult of scientific efficiency that spread to government leaders who were inspired to apply his approaches to managing the populace, according to the film.
President Woodrow Wilson, who viewed the U.S. Constitution as an obstacle to progress, got the process going by trying to offload some of the details of government administration from Congress to supposedly disinterested experts who would do a better job running the country.
Wilson’s progressive attacks on the U.S. Constitution were subsequently amplified by Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson, who along the way created an alphabet soup of administrative agencies to apply bureaucrats’ expertise to the making of laws. Roosevelt, in particular, embraced this idea of government by experts, which was the essence of his New Deal that established massive federal agencies to regulate the economy. Truman expanded on this with his Fair Deal and Johnson put it on steroids with his Great Society and War on Poverty.
The movie argues that this elitist approach to governance has led to tragedies such as the government-ordered destruction of crops during the Great Depression while people starved, the construction of housing projects that quickly turned neighborhoods into crime-infested hellholes that had to be demolished, and the destruction of the nuclear family in minority communities by misguided social welfare policies.
According to Simpson, this body of power-wielding experts is called the administrative state because it has “become a fourth branch of government that exercises all of the powers of the other three branches,” a reference to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
“Another way to think about it is as an arbitrary army of bureaucrats … [whose] whole purpose … is to dictate the choices people make in their private lives,” Simpson told The Epoch Times in an interview.
The Framers of the Constitution “were trying to prevent this sort of government from happening,” he said.
The film is available free of charge on the PLF’s YouTube page.