Have you heard of regulatory dark matter? Sub-rosa regulations? As in secret?

Are you the owner of a small business, for example, who has received a threatening letter from a federal agency or a branch thereof that you’ve never heard of, and been forced to settle under the implicit or explicit threat of penalties? Then you have had a close encounter with regulatory dark matter. They say it is not very pleasant.

Here’s another way to think of how widespread federal agencies are. No one in Washington D.C. – and that means members of agencies or government departments that register these agencies and release reports on this – can say with any exact certainty how many there are. And they are operating beyond the control of Congress, or sometimes even of the rule-making process at the agencies themselves. Here’s Robert Rogowski from a few years back:

An impressive underground regulatory structure thrives on investigations, inquiries, threatened legal actions, and negotiated settlements … Many of the most questionable regulatory actions are imposed in this way, most of which escape the scrutiny of the public, Congress, and even the regulatory watchdogs in the executive branch.

Congress has handed authority over much of the daily rules that govern everyone’s daily lives to an extortion racket run by unaccountable bureaucrats who most people even in D.C. don’t even know exist. Until they send you a threatening letter.

Congress, and the Executive, and the Courts, all need to take back power from what has become the 4th branch of government. The Regulatory State.

The Courts, unfortunately have made it very hard to fire federal agency heads or employees thanks, in part, to a 1935 Supreme Court decision involving FDR and a Federal Trade Commissioner, William Humphrey, who was insufficiently enamored of the New Deal. FDR wanted to fire Humphrey, who insisted on showing up to work regardless of the fact that FDR had told him in writing that he was fired. FDR lost the case. And by ruling the Federal Trade Commission was a quasi-legislative body, the Supreme Court made it all but impossible to fire heads of agencies who refuse to carry out the president’s policies.

To combat regulatory dark matter, and plainly visible regulations as well, changing civil service laws is another route. But that means getting Congress to pass a series of laws or one big bill, that will provoke the army of bureaucrats and their allies in the mainstream media. And these enraged and privileged elite won’t have far to go to assemble on The Mall, for example.

But maybe that’s what is needed. A Million Well-Paid-Wonk(ette) March on Washington. Let them emerge from the shadows of regulatory dark matter. Let them walk in the sunlight and demand to America’s taxpayers – especially those who face economic uncertainty and anxiety on a daily basis for much of their lives – that they deserve their privileges. That they are a breed apart. A nobility who merit favors paid for by the rest of us.

And then let Congress see if they have the mettle – or cojones – to do the right thing and reform civil service laws.