March 9, 2023 Reading Time: 4 minutes

The latest batch of Fauci files was supposed to have been released on Twitter in January, but has gone AWOL, if not down the Memory Hole. Could it be because they too clearly reveal the face of Faucism, a type of administrative dictatorship exemplified by Anthony Fauci’s almost four-decade reign over the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)?

Faucism combines control over financial resources and information with a carefully cultivated cult of personality. Fauci’s power grab went unnoticed for so long because the stakes seemed low, just $400,000+ a year in salary and the power to direct about $6 billion a year in research funding. 

We’ve since learned that Fauci and his wife, who coincidentally was the chief bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), earned almost $1.8 million in 2020 from their salaries, investment gains, and patent royalties. Their combined net worth was north of $10 million then, and is likely much higher now. The interest from that nest egg, plus a $350,000 pension and ongoing royalty payments, will ensure Fauci a million-dollar-a-year retirement income.

The personality cult Fauci built, with the help of progressive legacy media and social media censorship, was so strong that his admirers’ public adulation of him waxed even after public exposure of his multiple lies, logical inconsistencies, and megalomaniacal claims to “represent science.”

Most impressive of all, though, was the policy power Fauci was able to wield through his control of NIAID funding. Only a few brave, retired, or privately funded scientists dared to question even his most strident pronouncements regarding COVID-19, because public criticism of Fauci would likely have meant getting their funding cut, which is career suicide for most research scientists. So Americans long remained in the dark about crucial COVID facts, like infection-fatality rates, the efficacy of various therapies, and mask and vaccine safety and effectiveness.

The only other major source of pushback came from those with sufficient intellectual chops to understand what was occurring, but who were not beholden to Faucian financing. Fauci knew that the lockdown and masking policies he pushed were indefensible, so he reached out to other parts of the government to throttle the message of those questioning lockdowns, including the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, and economists and policy analysts such as Phil Magness, associated with AIER, the Independent Institute, and a few other nonprofits. The Fauci Files promised to reveal the extent of his throttling campaign.

Now that Fauci has finally retired, it is tempting to think that America’s harrowing brush with Faucism is over. Unfortunately, the administrative overreach at the heart of Faucism has long been endemic in America’s national government. The disease struck hard during the New Deal, the radical response of the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Great Depression. The First Hundred Days, the launch of the New Deal, began 90 years ago this week. 

AIER formed that same year, 1933, to combat the New Deal, which instituted a broad series of costly, nation-changing reforms in the name of economic security. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NIH, and NIAID were largely postwar creations, but they were all modeled after New Deal era bureaucracies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the National Recovery Administration.

In each case, Congress delegated broad powers to the executive branch to achieve some general goal(s). The executive branch then established an agency, commission, corporation, or department, and empowered it to meet its general goal(s) through the imposition of rules that soon came to have the force of law. 

Courts at first tried to adjudicate disputes arising under administrative rules and managed to strike some of them down. But James M. Landis (1899-1964), a New Dealer, erstwhile bureaucrat, and dean of Harvard’s law school, argued that it was perfectly fine for unelected administrators to make crucial decisions about Americans’ lives, liberty, and property, based on rules that administrators created and adjudicated themselves. 

Any problems arising from giving administrators so much discretion could be solved, Landis wrote in his 1938 book The Administrative Process, simply by improving administrative procedures. Such a vast delegation of power was perfectly democratic, because Congress and the President had agreed upon the law creating the bureaucracy and also agreed on its continued funding.

Lawmakers, apologists from the administrative state suggested, would surely shut down a rogue agency that, say, routinely bent laws against animal cruelty or flouted concerns over gain-of-function research. Except Fauci and other bureaucrats, like those at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), realized somewhere along the line that the US government has grown too vast to be adequately monitored by Congress, or by 330 million people with their own pressing problems. The administrators can aggrandize or enrich themselves pretty much as they see fit, especially during a putative “emergency.”

Although federal agencies and their leaders may occasionally get a slap on the wrist, real checks against the arbitrary abuse of their power appear lacking. Many Americans want to “drain the swamp,” and need to find a way to do so before the swamp drains them of the remnants of their individual autonomy and bank accounts.

Robert E. Wright

Robert E. Wright

Robert E. Wright is the (co)author or (co)editor of over two dozen major books, book series, and edited collections, including AIER’s The Best of Thomas Paine (2021) and Financial Exclusion (2019). He has also (co)authored numerous articles for important journals, including the American Economic ReviewBusiness History ReviewIndependent ReviewJournal of Private EnterpriseReview of Finance, and Southern Economic Review. Robert has taught business, economics, and policy courses at Augustana University, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Temple University, the University of Virginia, and elsewhere since taking his Ph.D. in History from SUNY Buffalo in 1997. Robert E. Wright was formerly a Senior Research Faculty at the American Institute for Economic Research.

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