Richard Epstein: "Is the Administrative State Consistent with the Rule of Law?"

Without question, the most distinctive feature of the modern social democratic state is the rise of administrative agencies, which at the federal level function as a shadowy Fourth Branch of government that fits uneasily into our constitutional scheme of separation of powers, and which at the state level oversee vast swaths of economic activity.

Defenders of the current administrative setup claim the elaborate procedural safeguards built into today’s administrative law effectively blunt the risk of arbitrary power, whose exercise has always been in tension with the rule of law. In this talk, Professor Epstein will explain why he thinks the massive discretion routinely confided in administrative agencies is in fact inconsistent with the rule of law on a wide range of matters dealing with economic liberties, tort liability, private property, and the institutional autonomy of voluntary associations.

Richard Epstein is James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Director of the Law and Economics Program at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded on January 29, 2008 as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas series.