Alex Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute writes about the Securities and Exchange Commission as an example of what happens when government by man — bureaucracy — supplants the rule of law. His comments are timely given today’s announcement on greenhouse gas regulation by Environmental Protection Agency, the most powerful regulatory agency in human history.

We tend to think of “bureaucracy” as meaning sluggish, complicated, unresponsive paperwork and process. But it has another, more threatening meaning: Rule by the bureaucrats, just as “aristocracy” is rule by the aristocrats—in other words, rule by unelected officers who impose their ideas on you, but cannot be voted out by you or anyone else. Bureaucracy in this sense has an inherent love of power and yearning for authority which cannot be questioned.

Consider the recent activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC criticized Goldman Sach’s synthetic CMO deal. Whatever one may think of the merits of the deal, should you be able to disagree with an attack on you by a bureaucracy? Goldman Sachs publicly disagreed. The SEC got the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation. Warren Buffett defended Goldman Sachs. The SEC announced it was investigating inadequate disclosures by Buffett’s company.

Coincidence? Or a message that you will certainly be punished if you dare to disagree with the bureaucrats?

It’s the nature of the bureaucratic beast. Once the EPA controls greenhouse gas emissions, you’ll be taking a risk by emitting disagreements as well as carbon dioxide.

Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online, who writes, “I can think of more sympathetic victims, but I think the point is sound.”

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