The legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands. For it being but a delegated power from the people, they, who have it, cannot pass it over to others.

—John Locke. Two Treatises of Government, 1689.

This fundamental principle is breached by the delegation of regulation-making power to:

  1. the executive branch;
  2. independent government agencies;
  3. courts and tribunals;
  4. industry bodies;
  5. international bodies, like the European Union.

Moreover, whenever legislative power is delegated, experience has shown that it is unsparingly used. This is because whereas the legislature is restrained in how many laws it can pass—there being only so many hours in the day, and they are constrained by second readings, debates, and the like—delegates sub-delegate the task of spewing out regulations to a thousand busy clerks to the point where there is no physical limit to the number of new laws that can be made. This means:

  1. The law is constantly changing, and so is arbitrary. This makes compliance prohibitively expensive for small businesses, leading to a corporatization of society.
  2. The rules become so prescriptive that bureaucrats begin to tell private business how to run almost every detail of their operations. Over time the businesses and individuals become straight-jacketed. This subjects the erstwhile private sector to the inefficiencies of government control.
  3. Every problem that arises in private or business life is perceived to be the government’s problem because government has the power to instantly regulate to address it. This leads to an unending cycle of excessive regulation.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove