The Readings for Democracy in America unit
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Unit 8 Readings, Bureaucracy: A Controversial Necessity
- IntroductionBureaucracy: A Controversial Necessity
- Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Public Officers Under
the Control of the American Democracy
- Federalist Papers: Federalist No. 72
- Myers v. U.S.
- Humphreys Executor v. U.S.
What does Tocqueville say about the role of costume for
What does Federalist No. 72 argue concerning
How much weight, according to Chief Justice Taft, should
the Supreme Court give to legislative action by Congress during
the early period of American government in which many of the founders
were still participating in public affairs?
What evidence supports the Supreme Courts assertion
that the Federal Trade Commission is not an arm or eye of the
IntroductionBureaucracy: A Controversial Necessity
In the middle of the twentieth century, the American government and
democracy experienced several major changes: rights and liberties
became major focuses of politics, moreover, law itself was increasingly
made, not directly by legislatures but by administrative agencies.
Technically, some administrative agencies commingle the elements that
the Constitution took great pains to separate. Laws regulating every
aspect of American society are now made, enforced, and adjudicated,
not directly by Congress, the president, and the courts, but by administrative
An agency like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)the
agency created by Congress to regulate unionsfor example, performs
aspects of all three branches of government. The NLRB creates rules
that are indistinguishable from legislative enactments in that they
regulate behaviors and carry the weight of law. While it has this
power, the NLRB also exercises a great deal of executive power. It,
like the executive branch, carries out legislative policies, particularly
acts such as making prosecutorial judgments. The NLRB, furthermore,
exercises judicial power in such actions as adjudicating conflicts
between employers and unions.
Included in this section of readings are various Supreme Court cases
in which the Court adjudicated questions of the ability of Congress
to create executive agencies that could function with such extensive
powers. The Court supported the deferral of legislative power to executive
agencies in Myers v. United States (1926). The President discharged
a postmaster who subsequently sued claiming that under that statute
that created his position, he could only be removed with the consent
of the Senate. The Supreme Court held the statute unconstitutional
because, former President, now Chief Justice, William Howard Taft
concluded it was unconstitutional for Congress to interfere in the
presidents ability to remove from a position of authority someone
charged with executing the law. Nine years later the Court clarified
the reach and limits of Myers; in Humphreys Executor v. United
States (1935) the Court reduced the reach of Myers. In this case,
President Franklin Roosevelt removed a commissioner of the Federal
Trade Commission, whose family sued (he subsequently died) for back
pay, claiming that Congress had designed the presidents removal
power in such a way that he could only remove someone for a good cause.
In this case, the Court upheld the limitation on the power of the
executive branch and agreed with the claimant family that the Congressional
limitation on the executives removal power was constitutional.
The Court, in this case, rejected the view that the president has
unchecked power to remove agency officials. The case proved additionally
important to the growth of the administrative state in that it supported
the ability of Congress to delegate power not solely to Cabinet officials
who directly serve the president but to independent agencies as well.
The deference of Congress to the president strengthened the power
that executive agencies exercise over American citizens and society,
making the agencies some of the most powerful institutions of government
in the twenty-first century. The readings collected in this section
explore more than the Supreme Courts account of the growth of
the power of executive agencies. They also explore the account offered
in the Federalist Papers that warns of the dangers inherent in executive