LEGITIMATE FROM THE INSIDE OUT: A REVIEW OF HOW AGENCIES ACT WHEN JUDGES ARE NOT WATCHING

Author: 

Catherine E. Kanatas, Lisa G. London, and Maxwell C. Smith

It is easy to do the right thing when people are watching.  When you know you are being judged or scrutinized, you tend to be on your best behavior.  People slow down when they see a police car, they sit up straighter if the teacher is watching, and they follow the rules when the referee is on the field.  But “the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”  The same could be said for administrative agencies.  This “fourth branch of the government” makes, applies, and enforces rules that dictate how we live our life, from the food we eat, to the water we drink and the air we breathe. Some have called this type of centralized power undemocratic, and it understandably raises questions about the legitimacy of the administrative state. How can agencies’ actions be legitimate when they often are judge, jury, and executioner?  Such circumstances highlight the importance of “character” within an agency: how faithfully it adheres to the rules guiding decision making, how open it is with people impacted by those decisions, and how frequently it changes course to address concerns from those impacted by agency decisions. Read more.