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Friday, June 20 • 1:15pm - 2:15pm
Presidential Power and the Dangers of Delegation

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The United States Code is filled with collections of words that look and act like laws but in reality simply delegate authority to make law to executive and judicial agents. Prime examples include the most important major modern acts such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), and the Troubled Assets Relief Program (“TARP”). The Constitution is specifically designed to prevent this kind of delegation of legislative authority, but for three quarters of a century presidents, Congress, and the Supreme Court have all acquiesced to permit it. As a result, the president, through supervision of administrative agencies, now functions as the country’s most important lawmaker. Gary Lawson will explain that while there are plausible arguments in political science for why presidents will, in many circumstances, make “better” lawmakers than Congress, the long-term danger that legislative delegations pose to the separation of powers likely swamps any short-terms gains from “better” legislation. Yet the separation of powers remains the most powerful structural device (apart from a well-armed citizenry) yet invented for reducing the risk of tyranny.

avatar for Gary Lawson

Gary Lawson

Philip S. Beck Professor of Law, Boston University
Gary Lawson is the Philip S. Beck Professor of Law at Boston University. Professor Lawson twice clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, first at the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and then at the United States Supreme Court. He has authored five editions of a textbook on administrative law, co-authored two books on aspects of constitutional history, and authored or co-authored more than sixty scholarly articles. He is a... Read More →

Friday June 20, 2014 1:15pm - 2:15pm
Great Room Manchester Country Club

Attendees (7)