Best Books of 2018: Judicial Fortitude


My pick for one of the best books of this year is “Judicial Fortitude: The Last Chance to Rein in the Administrative State” (Encounter Books, 2018) by Peter Wallison. It makes the seemingly dry topic of the administrative state come alive—or rather, illustrates how it is already alive and very destructive to our liberties.

Wallison is a rarity in public life. He has been both a high-level government official in the administration of President Ronald Reagan and a renowned scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he is conducting path-breaking research and analysis in a specialized area of public policy—financial regulation.

Having witnessed and worked in many corners of the body politic, Wallison is the perfect author to lay out the problem of the ever-growing administrative state and put forth different types of solutions to reduce its presence, if not end it outright. In his new book, Wallison explains why the administrative state—also called the “fourth branch” or more recently the “deep state”—is anything but an abstract issue. It touches the lives of Americans and Europeans, and voters on both continents know it.

In an outlook that is international in scope, Wallison compares unaccountable U.S. bureaucracy with the European Union super-state and shows the similarities in voter revolts against both. He quotes former London Mayor Boris Johnson, a leader of the Brexit movement calling for the United Kingdom to pull out of the European Union, on the unaccountable EU bureaucracy. “We cannot do anything to stop the torrent of EU legislation, coming at a rate of 2,500 a year, and imposing costs of 600 million [pounds] per week on UK businesses,” Johnson proclaims.

Similarly, on the growth of the U.S. administrative state, Wallison cites figures from my Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Wayne Crews that regulatory agencies have issued 101,380 rules since 1993 and never less than 3,000 rules in any one year.

Wallison captures the excesses of the entire administrative state from the Department of Education to the Environmental Protection Agency. He especially shines when he spotlights the subject he knows best, the incredible brazenness of the post-Dodd-Frank financial regulators under the tenure of President Barack Obama.

That’s why Judicial Fortitude is must reading for those who resolve to do everything they can to get back to limited constitutional government in 2019 and the years to come.