Delegation to Nonexperts

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The ambitious policy goals we set for our governments demand that they develop a great deal of expertise. We want drinking water to be clean and prescription drugs to be safe, but we don’t expect legislators themselves to spend years learning about water chemistry and pharmacology before they legislate. It is unrealistic to expect members of a popularly elected body to have the breadth and depth of knowledge needed to address emergent social problems in a timely and effective way. Instead, we trust that bodies acting on the legislature’s behalf, like administrative agencies, have the technical knowledge—including knowledge of chemistry, engineering, economics, and law—necessary to accomplish the goals the legislature entrusts to them.

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