I confess I find the concept of dark matter appealing on several fronts. “Seeing the invisible,” as Harvard University’s “Science in the News” blog described the process for uncovering scientific evidence for dark matter, is key to being a rational thinker.

As a Christian, it reminds me of Paul’s distinction between “the things that are seen” and “the things that are unseen.” As an economist, it makes me think of Frédéric Bastiat’s “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.” As a scholar of literature, it makes me think of Hamlet’s declaration that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Finally, as a North Carolinian, it makes me think of the state motto, Esse Quam Videri, “To be rather than to seem.” The truth of a matter isn’t how it looks, it’s how it is. As bold a motto as this one is, it actually originated in a discourse about true friendship.

Scientists argue for dark matter because, while it cannot be seen, its influence on the motion of the stars tells them that it indeed is. The researcher whose team “identified the galaxy Dragonfly 44, which is composed almost entirely of dark matter,” explained:

“Motions of the stars tell you how much matter there is,” Pieter van Dokkum, a researcher at Yale University, said in a statement. “They don’t care what form the matter is, they just tell you that it’s there.”

There shouldn’t be dark matter in regulation

A bill before the General Assembly would address what’s known as regulatory dark matter. It would make executive agencies bring their unseen rules into the light as rules. Natural forces and spiritual matters are different from rules developed by bureaucrats. There’s a specific process for rulemakers to follow if they want a rule, and that’s what House Bill 361 (now version 2) would ensure.

As this research brief explains, regulatory dark matter consists of an executive agency’s policies, guidelines, memos, or interpretive statements of rules that the agency then enforces as if they are the rules themselves. They’re rules but not “rules.” Nevertheless, like the stars affected by the unseen dark matter, the people affected by regulatory dark matter don’t care what form a rule takes, they can just tell you it’s there.

HB 361 would add this one sentence to state law: “Any policy that an agency attempts to implement as a rule shall be unenforceable unless it is adopted as a rule.” Read the brief to find out how that would address regulatory dark matter in NC.