Much of original American law was derived from English common law. Today, it’s unlikely that the American body of law resembles English law. Two hundred–plus years of legislating (mischief-making, most of it) have changed the legal landscape of the United States.
Where do we find most of our American Law?
U.S. Constitution – I can carry a copy of the Constitution in my purse! The Constitution is available here in a single HTML page.
Legislation (or "statutory law") is law which has been enacted by a legislature or other governing body. (See above commentary about the size of the Constitution)
Administrative Law --administrative authority entails the power to issue rules and regulations based on statutes, grant licenses and permits to facilitate the conduct of government business. Code upon code regulates nearly every activity of American Life, dwarfing the size of the bill that started the ball rolling, including those 2000-page bills. (See above commentary about the size of the Constitution)
It is in Administrative Law that we get lost. In this body of law, agencies like the Department of Education (created in 1979) or the Department of Energy (created in 1977) make the rules and regulations that enact and enforce the statutes passed by Congress. Unelected bureaucrats ultimately implement legislation. Consider the enormous power these agencies have. As Presidents and their cabinet appointees come and go, agency bureaucrats work their “magic” day in and day out… so little accountability and so great a compensation package.
Did you know that when the Dept of Education was created, the U.S. graduate rate was under 75 percent? After 30 years existence, the E. D. succeeded in ensuring that the U.S. graduation rate remains under 75 percent. (Great job, guys and gals!) How much are we spending to get such paltry results? In the table here, you will see that the Obama’s 2011 Budget request for the E.D. increases from 2010 by $18.6 billion, a 31.4% increase!! Goodness gracious! WHY? (I’m doing a great job at work which is actually quantifiable, but I haven’t had a pay increase in 3 years! What gives?)
Look, it is in the administrative buildings where your tax money is spent with little oversight and no accountability. It’s time we start doing something about this…. Pay attention to the budgets of these mammoth agencies and elect representatives who will work to eliminate many of these behemoths. We don’t need them if they aren’t fulfilling their mission. The Devil is indeed in the details (and in these agencies).
Julie Ranson, wife and mother of three, lives and teaches in Virginia.