In the United States, administrative law suffers from a perceived lack of legitimacy largely due to a lack of democratic accountability or what some have called a democratic deficit. These misgivings stem, in part, from a deep-seated American distrust of bureaucracy. This Article examines how the quest for legitimacy has led practitioners (and theorists) of administrative law to undertake our interrelated projects: the Accountability Project, the Rationality Project, the Transparency Project, and the Participatory Project, all designed to create a substitute or shadow form of democratic legitimacy.
Through an examination of these projects, I clarify how they try to address the democratic deficit, and whether they effectively do so. Specifically, this article investigates the impact of judicial review, informal rule-making, increased access to information, and public participation as efforts to meet the legitimacy challenge. Moreover it disputes the contention that the pursuit of democratic legitimacy is less consequential for administrative law than the need for bureaucratic rationality, by illustrating that bureaucratic rationality is but one component of a larger scheme intended to serve as a functional substitute for legitimacy. At bottom, because Americans do not share the fondness for the technocratic model displayed by many other legal systems, legitimacy projects have an enduring place in American administrative law.
Marshall J. Breger, The Quest for Legitimacy in American Administrative Law, 40 ISRAEL L. REV. 72 (2007).