Elihu Vedder’s two murals in the Library of Congress, Corrupt Legislation and Good Administration, are arresting depictions of the polity the creators of the American administrative state hoped to escape and of the sound and just government they hoped to attain. Knowing that administrators would not stay good on their own, they designed the administrative state accordingly. Much has changed since 1940, including the rise of rule making as the most controversial form of administrative action. Still, the emergence of a procedural rule of law during the heyday of administrative adjudication remains relevant. First, the methods of holding administrators accountable tried out before 1940 are part of a repertoire to which we still turn today. Second, this history shows that we can have an administrative state without transgressing fundamental principles of American governance.
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