Habib Olapade is a senior at Stanford University studying political science.
Federal administrative agencies interpret, enforce, and in some cases adjudicate disputes arising under congressional statutes. Agency officials acquire an intimate and complex understanding of the regulatory laws they carry out because they interact with them on a daily basis. Bureaucratic expertise is a double edged sword.
On one hand, agency specialists facilitate compromise between the political branches by allowing lawmakers to agree on broad, non-controversial principles and then passing the buck to agency staff who turn those principles into a concrete set of policies. Congress benefits from this arrangement because members can claim credit for any agency accomplishments while avoiding responsibility for agency malfeasance by arguing that they do not promulgate agency directives or were misled in an oversight hearing. Likewise, the general populace also benefits from agency expertise because it receives a public good that would otherwise not be available, calibrated to the particular needs of society as a whole or an influential segment of society.