The Framers of our Constitution elevated one historical insight above all others. Concentrating power in the hands of a single branch of government, they agreed, is the antithesis of liberty. An “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands,” James Madison warned in Federalist 47, “may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

The modern administrative state may be a softer form of absolutism than that of Charles I, but it is no less tyrannical. Take the phenomenon of federal agency adjudication. An agency investigates American citizens for alleged administrative offenses. Then it prosecutes and tries them for those offenses, not in a court of law, but in the agency’s own administrative star chamber. Beyond allowing the agency to be the investigator, prosecutor, and judge in its own case, agency adjudication in practice often allows the agency to decide cases based on its own internal policies, not on Acts of Congress.

To appreciate the perils of administrative adjudication, one need look no further than to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. As a division of the Department of Labor, the OFCCP enforces anti-discrimination provisions in federal contracts. The OFCCP’s chief method for rooting out discrimination by contractors is a jarringly blunt statistical calculus. If a company’s workforce is off—even if by a few percentage points—from the minority composition of the available applicant pool, the OFCCP assumes the company has engaged in discrimination.