Overregulation: The problem we can’t outproduce (with some words from Reagan)

Death Star.

In the period between 1950 and about 2005, Americans continuously sustained a hefty downpayment on our federal, state, and local governments’ spiraling debt, by upping our productivity, our economic output, and the scope of opportunity for everyone.

Overregulation and implied state ownership of what we produce has been a problem for us since Woodrow Wilson’s terms in office.  But until the last half-decade, the American people shouldered and outproduced greater and greater burdens of regulation and/or taxation, costly credit and inflation, and victim politics and litigation.  Operating in the conditions of relative economic and political freedom – more than most of the world, if not more than in our own past – the American people were a productivity engine unmatched in the history of man.  Spend more?  We’ll produce more.  Tax receipts will skyrocket.  If our governments can’t pay their bills, it won’t be because the American people aren’t producing.

The burdens have now caught up with us, however.  Tax rates, while they have gone up and down in the last 30 years, have hovered around a mean established in the 1980s.  Top rates have not skyrocketed as they did at some points in America’s past.   Yet the American productivity engine is faltering.  Unemployment remains high at over 8%, and America’s labor force participation rate has dropped to its lowest level since 1981 (which was in the trough of a major recession).

Credit is harder to get, but people don’t want that much of it anyway.  Consumers aren’t spending.  Housing values have plunged into an abyss, with no end in sight.  (A home virtually identical to mine was listed last week for about half what I paid for mine in December 2002.  Six months ago it would have been listed at about 65% of my original purchase price.)  In the current heat wave in the Southwest, California power companies that announced “flex alerts,” during which customers are asked to use less power, have been surprised that usage was well below what they thought it would be.  People can’t afford to pay for air conditioning as they once would have – and many homes are still standing empty after three, four, or five years.  Similar low demand has hit the US Northeast.  (This means, incidentally, that the power companies aren’t getting the revenue they were expecting.  Down the road, that isn’t going to be a good thing.)

It’s easy to say that people don’t want to work.  It’s also cheap and easy to talk about “fatcat” business owners who don’t want to hire people, or who are just being rich while the rest of us are miserable.

But most new jobs – about 70% — have always been created by small businesses in America, and those small businesses are being steamrolled by regulation.  Regulation is having a serious impact even on big business, and all its costs are passed on to the customer.  “Business” doesn’t pay for anything; you pay for it all.  If you don’t, the business isn’t viable, and you don’t have those big, clean grocery stores with thousands of products, or gas stations charging competitive prices on every corner.  Either you pay all the costs of regulation, or the product isn’t available.

One particular American president was closely attuned to the costs of regulation, and you won’t be surprised that it was Ronald Reagan.  Several times in the late 1970s, he spoke about this problem in his radio spots.  The points he made then resonate as if they were made at 10:00 this morning.

One 2 March 1977, Reagan talked about “Added Inflation” caused by government regulation*:

To inflation and taxes let us add another cost to all of us which is the indirect inflation brought about by excessive regulation and government statutes.

He went on:

… in 1974 the Federal Register needed 45,422 pages to list all the new U.S. Government decrees and regulations that year…

Those regulations add to the cost of doing business in a variety of fields and many ways which means they add to the cost of the things we buy.  For example Congressman Bill Armstrong of Colorado estimates, “Restrictive rate policies of the Interstate Commerce Commission add $5 billion per year in excess freight rates passed on to the consumer.”

Reagan cited other specific costs of regulation in this radio spot.  On 8 November 1977, he did a spot on the travails of the Greyhound bus company, which had had some very unfortunate encounters with federal regulators:

Greyhound happens to have the best safety record in the transportation business. …

But one day the company was hailed into federal court by the U.S. Labor Department.  The government charged the company with discrimination because it had an age qualification for its drivers. …

Next the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission attacked because Greyhound has a height requirement.  After years of experience the company’s safety people had set a minimum requirement of 5’7” for drivers.  EEOC charged this discriminated against people who weren’t 5’7”. …

EEOC demanded that Greyhound pay some $19 million to unspecified, unnamed individuals who might have been employed in the past if they hadn’t had that 5’7” height requirement. …

The ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] has ordered the company to provide a terminal in every town of 15,000 population and up through which the buses run and keep those terminals manned and open day and night. If the ICC has its way Greyhound’s operating costs would be increased by $187 million and bus fares would have to be increased by 50%.

On 27 January 1978, Reagan talked about the disincentives inherent with regulations imposed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974.

A relatively small law firm … has instituted a retirement plan involving profit and ownership sharing for its few employees. [This firm] informed [its] Congressman that the ERISA Act of 1974 having to do with pensions had resulted in making the cost of administering the law firm’s retirement plan greater than the plan’s benefits.

Reagan went on in this broadcast to recount the story of a small proprietor in Maryland, the owner of a sewing-machine repair shop.  The man, said Reagan,

…decided to hire one employee.  It seems this takes more than just running an ad and offering someone a salary.  He had write [send] for employer’s state and federal tax forms.

From the state he received a stack of forms including two notices he was required to put on the wall of his shop telling employees how to complain about unsafe or unsanitary working conditions and how to apply for unemployment compensation.  The federal government sent him a packet containing 44 forms ranging from 1 to 30 pages each.  He said, “I wouldn’t have time to do my sewing-machine work if I had to read all this.” …

The proprietor explained that he had thought he could help the unemployment situation by teaching some boy or girl a trade.  He added, “But they don’t make it easy for you at all.”

The IRS concedes his complaint is a familiar one among small businessmen but “ho-hummed” that most of them eventually get used to it.  Maybe – but just maybe a lot of them like the sewing-machine man change their minds about hiring someone.

That’s it, in a nutshell.  We get used to regulation.  It deters new hires, it puts small firms out of business, it makes everything cost more for us and reduces all our options and opportunities – but it operates by stealth, and most of us don’t even know it’s affecting us.  Who among us knows what’s in our body of federal regulations?  How many of us know that more than 81,000 pages were added to the Federal Register in 2010?

In the 1980s, the annual average was just under 53,000 pages; in the 1990s, it was over 62,000.  Why was it even bigger under Reagan than it was in the 1970s? Because of all the federal departments and agencies that had been created in the quarter-century prior to 1980.  The departments and agencies write the additions to the Federal Register.  You’re paying these folks’ salaries, benefits, and pensions – and for the costs of the regulations they write – but you probably have no idea what 99% of the employees in the civilian agencies and departments are doing all day.

Prosperity has met its match.  Regulation will kill prosperity by stealth unless we the people wake up to what’s going on.  We are wildly, insanely overregulated today, and if we don’t attack the idea of the regulatory state on those terms – on the premise that regulation itself is mostly a bad thing, and we need far less of it than we have – then we will never recover.  Regulation is already repressing and discouraging our economy, and after 40 years of a full-bore barrage from it, we have come to the end of the kick from freedom’s natural momentum and the tax-rate reductions under Reagan and Bush 43.

There will always be some anecdote making it sound like increased regulation is our only option.  A posture of principled skepticism toward the very concept of government regulation – an assumption that given our natural rights, it should be rare and limited – is the only thing that will consistently defeat those incessant appeals. 

We’ve reached the end of the line.  Our freedom to start businesses has been seriously degraded.  The cost of inputs to all facets of life, including operating a business, has soared, due largely to regulation.  We aren’t better off for all this regulation, which has gone so far beyond things like clean water and warding off disease that it is now doubling back on itself, and deliberately denying us water and declining to spray public spaces for disease-carrying mosquitoes.  Regulation has left the compact with the public behind, and is now more about restraining citizens than about helping them – more about creating new sinecures for policy advocates than about ensuring the people have full, unfettered use of their property and their individual gifts.

We can’t compromise with the regulatory impulse.  That’s what we’ve been doing for the last 100 years, and this is where we are because of it.  Overregulation has created the flailing America of 2012.   Only a dramatic reduction of regulation at the top two levels of government – federal and state – can make the difference we need.  Unless we get this through our heads, the American idea of liberty, with rights of men that are good against regulation, no matter how badly its advocates want to impose it, will die with my generation.


* The quotations are taken from Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson, Reagan’s Path to Victory (New York: Free Press, 2004).  The book compiles the notes Reagan made for a number of his five-minute radio broadcasts between 1975 and 1979.   Skinner and the Andersons transcribed Reagan’s hand-written notes by reproducing his own notations such as ampersands, strike-throughs, and abbreviations.  For clarity, I have excerpted the quotations here using full words rather than abbreviations, using “and” for ampersand, correcting spelling, and so forth.  I’ve left the sentence punctuation mostly alone, although it could use some commas.  The pages on which the quotations in this post occur in the 2004 hardback edition are, in order:  pp. 128-9, “Added Inflation”; pp. 220-21, “Free Enterprise”; pp. 259-60, “Regulation.”


J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

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29 thoughts on “Overregulation: The problem we can’t outproduce (with some words from Reagan)”

  1. There won’t be any retreat by state bureaucracy at any level, although municipalities and counties won’t be able to continue to expand because they lack the ability to print their own money. Our own nomenclatura concentrates on preserving its privileges above all other things, witness the rebellion of state employees in Wisconsin over token reductions in their compensation.

    Since the taxpayers that the government is supposedly meant to serve are unable to restructure the financial folly that self-serving politicians and their accomplices in the public sector have created it would be best to hasten their demise by accelerating the financial catastrophe, so we can get back to sanity as soon as possible. Give all the public employees a big raise and spectacular retirement benefits, build huge public buildings that are difficult to maintain, make sure we have 11 (or more) carrier groups to protect us from Somali pirates and Iranian PT boats. Increase farm subsidies, SNAP, aid to education, public art expenditures, build light rail lines from Waukesha to Wauwatosa, print piles of pixels of money to buy the votes of economically misguided, if not illiterate, proles. Don’t fool around with band-aids on a ruptured appendix, let the patient die.

  2. as long as you want a nation of hundreds of millions of citizens engaging in vast enterprises and enormously complex economic relations———then

    “… if we don’t attack the idea of the regulatory state on those terms – on the premise that regulation itself is mostly a bad thing….”

    is just jerking it.

  3. We have been slow-boiling frogs for so long that we have become accustomed to the hot water to the point in which we actually seem to expect its temperature to continue rising and even to like the fact that it does. This process has been going on for so long and has been supported by such a high level of public indoctrination that I wonder if it is still in us to reverse the trend.

    I hope so, but I don’t see the federal or state government relinquishing their enormous power over us any time soon. Power, it seems, is of a finite quantity. The more the people have of it, the less government has and vice versa. But the people are broken down into individuals that cannot really wield power on their own. They can be convinced, fooled, cajoled or simply bought off with goodies (re: entitlements) one individual at a time, something that is not so easy to do with government (unless you are a Senator, a Representative or a high ranking bureaucrat…). Also, the addiction to wielding power is too well rooted in these small-as-an-individual men and women of government.

    But, let’s take heart. All of that is the result of the democratic process so it can’t be bad…



    1. power, of course, is not a fixed quantity………not even a relatively fixed one……

      and let’s have no talk of frog-boiling.

  4. Overregulation is a symptom, not a cause. It is a symptom of frustration and fear. It proceeds from the reactive impulse to prevent future injustice by imposing regulatory controls upon individuals and groups. Mistakenly advancing the premise that if we can just control people and circumstances enough, we can limit injustice to acceptable levels.

    Alas, locks are for honest people.

    The anti-social mind will always seek and find ways to circumvent society’s regulations and laws. Thus, the pursuit of ever greater regulation…until unchecked, the liberty of self-determination is regulated out of life. The bureaucracy of ‘Big Brother’ is the inevitable social consequence.

      1. You confuse cause with effect. Regulation is a response. Seeking to use the ‘opportunities’ that regulation may provide, as a means to power and dominance are the actions of the unethical.

        1. To: GB

          “Regulation is a response.”

          Not necessarily. It is certainly much more than that. Specially lately. Regulation is much too often a blatant attack, a push towards another goal. Like I said, power and dominance and the need to justify the insasiable thirst for more and more power

          “Seeking to use the ‘opportunities’ that regulation may provide, as a means to power and dominance are the actions of the unethical.”

          Sure. And…?


      2. —- ” Regulation, over or not, is about power and dominance “—-

        dang, but that sounds just like all government.

        Rafa the Anarchist hath issued the call

        1. To: Herr Fuster

          I am not an anarchist. There are other things out there, fuster, besides Nazis (the preferred label of socialists) and anarchists (the preferred label of “government is king” fools).

          You, on the other hand, are a rabid socialist. And because of that, probably a fool to boot.

          Have I told you lately that I don’t like socialists…? I thought I had. You are not so good at listening are you…?

          Please drive through.


    1. Frustration and fear? Regulations are created and implemented by bureaucracies and one of their aims is to PRODUCE frustration and fear. Ask anybody looking at an IRS audit or talk to the boss at Gibson guitar. Just as the tiny acorn eventually becomes the mighty oak, an agency employing a couple of drones to address a specific problem metastisizes into something like HHS or GSA or USDA. In the non-governmental world, for a number of reasons, organizations don’t last forever. Pan Am is history, can’t buy a Studebaker anymore, charities have disappeared or gone after different problems. Not the government. The “War on Poverty” has consumed billions but still the battle rages. The “War on Drugs” alone is a sufficient indictment of the democratic/republic to move for its demise. Influential people, for a myriad of reasons, have made it a crime for others to ingest substances that they don’t approve, incarcerating thousands and creating groups of rent-seekers like prison guards that want to keep even more people in cages.

      Keep in mind that at one time the National Socialists determined the standards of morality and ethics in Germany. They used the Geheime Staatspolizei to enforce their regulations and most, a majority, of loyal Germans went along with the program. It’s doubtful that the average German in 1935 could have envisioned what his country would have looked like ten years later. Nor could that German have predicted that many of those that confidently held their fellows under their thumbs with the power of the state would one day be regarded as guilty of crimes against humanity and suffer the consequences. It can happen anyplace.

      1. Bureaucracies with regulatory authority are created by Congress.

        The creation of regulatory agencies is a response by Congress to outcries that gain sufficient public support.

        Regulations issued by those bureaucracies are in response to public outcries over some perceived injustice, be it children’s issues, environmental concerns (valid or not), airline safety, etc.

        Agencies frequently issue regulations to satisfy some special interest group; drug companies, the environmental lobby, etc.

        Regulatory agencies who attempt to produce fear and frustration in the public in order to justify further regulation is a relatively recent development and is primarily driven by bureaucrats who share the left’s agenda.

        Bureaucrats who use their regulatory authority to advance a political/ideological agenda are abusing their authority. Such actions are not inherent to regulation. Regulations are properly viewed as boundaries within which commerce and public activity may freely operate, just as the rules of baseball govern that game.

        “Influential people” are NOT responsible for the War on Drugs” which was and continues to be a societal reaction to the seduction that drugs hold for gullible adolescents and addictive personalities. The wisdom of that approach is another issue. The ‘opportunity’ that regulation affords for unethical people in a position to use that regulation as leverage for personal gain… is another issue.

        Tens of thousands of people saw where Nazism would lead. The tens of thousands who emigrated from Germany in the mid-thirties bear testament to that assertion. Einstein was not alone in seeing that Nazism was a cancer in the German soul.

        Churchill railed against Nazism and Hitler for years before the outbreak of war. He was not alone in that assessment.

        Plenty of people saw war approaching, including 17 yr old boys.

        Eighteen months before Pearl Harbor, my father, shortly after his 18th birthday (april of 1940), persuaded my reluctant grandfather to agree to his enlistment in the Army, by using the argument that everyone knew that war was coming and, that his chances of survival would be better if he had real training, rather than the mere weeks of training that recruits got after the start of WWI.

        The ‘shock’ of Pearl Harbor was that what no one wanted had actually happened and, the reaction of outrage to a sneak attack.

        Societal morality and ethics are generational constructs, no group can sell you something you’re not already inclined to buy. German resentment at the WWI terms of treaty and the devastating impact of the world-wide depression of the thirties, led to the need for a scapegoat and acceptance of Hitler’s demagogic identification of the Jews as the culprit of German economic misery.

  5. Given our current economic circumstances, you would think that governments would ease up on regulations that impede starting new businesses or expanding existing ones. You would think there would be no talk of raising taxes or increasing the costs of hiring. You would think that the government would not impose regulations preventing the importation or production of oil or the use of coal. You would think that government would quit raising your electric bill with alternative energy mandates and subsidies to failing companies that promise to produce expensive energy.

    You would be wrong.

  6. The only real weapon the middle classes have in the battle against big government is restricting governments ability to tax and borrow. Only when government have less income, (either through taxes or issuing debt) ,at their disposal will they be forced to cut their expenditures and by extension deregulate.

    This is a very painful proposition, there is no such thing as “growing our way out anymore” as Optcon points out.

    My only difference with the general philosophy is that there has been an incredible amount of paper wealth that has been artificially created (derivatives & debt for example) and transferred to some obscenely wealthy entities around the globe. This wealth was derived neither through production or innovation or “creation of real wealth” but through finacialization and over-leveraging to the degree of outright theft. Then they come to the taxpayers hat in hand, with thinly veiled threats that they are “too big to fail”, all the while collecting astronomical salaries, bonuses and benefits. This is a gross injustice.

    Off shore tax havens are an obvious example, but the domestic systems themselves have developed means ( through their manipulation of the law making process) to dispense with paying their fair share of taxes. Entities in the above categories should be taxed “to the death”. They have a detrimental effect on the US domestic economy.

    I would gladly go along with any political force that reduced government and taxes. My only caveat is that the banksters and their corporate kleopcratic cousins bear the full weight of actions. Actions which in no small measure are co-responsible for leading the country to its current state of being on the brink of ruin. The financial system is in as dire need of reform as the government is. This is not anti-free trade or anti-capitalist argument. No one should be above the law

    1. Then they come to the taxpayers hat in hand, with thinly veiled threats that they are “too big to fail”, all the while collecting astronomical salaries, bonuses and benefits. This is a gross injustice.

      No it’s not, it’s the corporate state in action. In June, Greece needed 1.4 billion Euros to pay current operating expenses and 3.6 billion
      Euros to make interest payments and refinance their version of T-bills. Borrowing money to pay dental inspectors and postal employees salaries and retirement was eating the Greeks alive. At the same time, the European Financial Stability Fund was being lobbied to cough up 18 billion Euros to re-capitalize Greek banks. In other words, the good health of banks, not just their survival, is more important, financially, than the survival of the Greek state itself.

      The banks don’t come to the taxpayers for anything. They get what they want from the government and the proles have zero input on the matter. In fact, you could make the case that this whole world-wide “recession” is an orchestrated effort by the financial community to end up with as much wealth as possible. In Spain, for instance, the plan is to set up a bank that will acquire the dubious assets of all the other banks, which will then be re-capitalized. The “bad bank” will hold these poisoned assets until such time as they once again approach their former value. Of course, there’s no guarantee that will ever

      What may happen, though, is a significant, perhaps calamitous, inflation of the Euro, and probably the dollar as well, caused by the famous “quantitative easing”. In that case, the bad assets owned by the banks will be more valuable than money. When a new currency system is initiated, as it surely would be, the banks would be starting over again with a clean slate, having paid off the debt on their toxic assets with valueless fiat funds. Having fiat money is not the same as being wealthy. Wealth is property, land, oil, timber, cattle. It’s not pixels on a hard drive representing pictures of deceased politicians.

      1. I agree with you in general. but on this point

        “The banks don’t come to the taxpayers for anything.”

        Didn’t the state have to raise the revenues or issue bonds to bail out the banks and investment firms by eventually raising taxes CM? And this massive concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, while the middle class (not the slackers mind you) has it’s standard of living and net worth slashed, is a good thing?

        I’m not a financial expert, btw CM, so any insights are appreciated.

        1. As opticon has pointed out in the past, there’s no relationship between tax receipts and government expenditures. Taxes are used for social engineering purposes, money is simply created by the Fed to buy the treasury bonds used to finance government. In this respect, Modern Monetary Theorists like Stephanie Kelton and Michael Hudson have something of a handle on reality. They are accurately describing in many ways what’s actually happening. Curiously, few others, especially those who are determining economic policy, will admit that the MMT maniacs are correct, even though they’re pretty much following their recipe, EXCEPT for printing basically unlimited amounts of money, at least for now. When the spigot is opened all the way, the MMTs will be correct in their analysis. Unfortunately, that will be the end of the fiat dollar.

    2. JGETS:

      Not that I am in open disagreement with all the things you say but I do hope to bring up a couple of comments/questions as follows:

      “The only real weapon the middle classes have in the battle against big government is restricting governments ability to tax and borrow.”

      Actually that’s not true, although I do undertstand what you mean by that. In actuallity, though, the only real “weapon” anybody has as far as all this is concerned is their individual vote. Since government uses those taxes and what they borrow to purchase those votes by the millions you can appreciate that the “weapon” has been severely blunted as far as government spending goes.

      “the domestic systems themselves have developed means ( through their manipulation of the law making process) to dispense with paying their fair share of taxes.”

      Careful, JGETS. This is very shaky ground. For instance, who determines what anybody’s fair share is? Government? Good luck with that. Government prospers and gains power from the constant use of targeted unfairness and the unequal distribution of those very shares. The tax code is a very good example of that propensity and also shines a very bright light at the fact that some are indeed above the law, only perhaps they are not exactly or only those that you chose to single out. The percentage of people in this country that contribute nothing back to it is astronomical and, as is being clearly demonstrated, quite untenable. The ones that contribute nothing and ride on the backs of those that pay in excess of their “fair” share of taxes are the very ones that are being manipulated and used to extract an even more unfair share from a diminishing group of contributors.

      It’s funny but in everything else, “fair” is when everybody gets the same breaks. Remember when we were kids and we had to share something with a brother, sister or friend? Remember the pains that went into splitting that thing into equal parts? Remember how, when the split was not fair somebody always said something like “OK, fine. You cut and I chose” just to make sure that the split was indeed fair? What happened to all that good and logical measure of fairness? The answer is simple: Political and government demagogery.

      My advise is this: Don’t fall for it.


      1. Your point about other segments of the population not contributing is well taken and valid, thanks. I consider that a solution to this is necessary as well. But under no circumstances do I believe that they should contribute while others I previously mentioned do not. In other words ‘contributions” (for lack of a better phrase) shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

    3. “there has been an incredible amount of paper wealth that has been artificially created (derivatives & debt for example) and transferred to some obscenely wealthy entities around the globe. This wealth was derived neither through production or innovation or “creation of real wealth” but through finacialization and over-leveraging to the degree of outright theft. Then they come to the taxpayers hat in hand, with thinly veiled threats that they are “too big to fail”, all the while collecting astronomical salaries, bonuses and benefits. This is a gross injustice.”

      It is “the corporate state in action” but not for the superficial reasons given below. Peel back the layers of corporate greed, peel back the layer of funding entitlement programs through ever increasing debt, peel back the deeper layer of governmental self-interest and then peel back the even deeper layer; that previously created infrastructure now supports the artificially created reality that the big banks and ‘financial industry’ really are “too big to fail” as they are woven into our very nation’s financial infrastructure…and you arrive at the core of the problem;

      Namely the premise that supply and demand can be separated and that there need not be a physical connection between the money supply and an actual store of physical wealth, otherwise known as fiat money solely secured by the good faith and reputation of the issuer.

      Brought to us by the liberal adoption of Keynesian economics, which holds that you can have your cake and eat it too.

      In the 70’s when Nixon, out of political expediency, capitulated to Keynesian economics and abandoned the gold standard, (its not gold per se but a real, objectively physical barometer of a society’s wealth) the door to artificially created wealth was opened and the slippery slope to derivatives, et al, unsustainable levels of debt and eventual sovereign bankruptcy emerged.

      Look to Greece and California for real world examples.

      The left seeks power above all else and uses liberal gullibility to advance the notion that socialism/communism is the only way to achieve social justice, seeking a physical utopia (a replacement for lost belief in the divine and a just afterlife) that would finally eliminate poverty and injustice. Of course, the result of socialism is that eventually you ‘run out of other people’s money’, which inevitably leads to the communist manifesto of “from each according to their ability and to each according to their need”.

      Which is an implicit rejection of both Jesus’ dictum that “the poor you shall always have with you” and life’s essential unfairness.

      Lacking the wisdom to accept what they cannot change, they never realize that life’s essential unfairness is completely necessary.

      Without the ‘unfair’ beneficial mutation, there is no evolution.

      Without the ‘unfair’ blessing of exceptional intellect there is no genius. And fire, the wheel, the agricultural revolution, creating a written language, the printing press which facilitates education for the masses, germ theory essential to a deeper understanding of medicine, the industrial revolution, etc., etc. never happen.

      Nor does Capitalism appear, which successfully addresses poverty, by over generations creating new standards of what poverty consists; in those countries which have embraced Capitalism and the cultural value of education, the poorest experience a far higher standard of living today than previous generations of poor experienced. Reagan’s “a rising tide lifts all boats” referred to a society’s generational economic progress, not the normal economic ups and downs of everyday life.

      Operating out of a limited perspective, liberals forget that ‘Poverty’ is a relative standard, compared to a billionaire, almost all of us live in poverty.

      Without life’s ‘unfairness’, there would be no progress, only the dull stasis of mediocrity.

      Nor is injustice equivalent to life’s essential unfairness. Injustice is the result of unethical behavior by the self-absorbed.

      Life’s essential unfairness is the reason for hope in a better tomorrow.

  7. I think GB and rafa are both right about regulation. The triumph in US and Western politics of the regulatory impulse was due originally to fear of independence in the people. Frankly, it’s also due to the complacent busybody impulse that plagues most of us unless we take care on principle to deter it in ourselves.

    Some people are naturally devoid of this impulse, but it’s really very few. Most folks have to consciously decide not to give in to it. Many, of course, simply live their lives by it. They are foolish enough to think we can write thousands of rules to constrain our neighbors and not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

    Few of us ever give much thought to whether we OUGHT to run around constraining our neighbors. Most arguments about regulation are made based on “necessity” versus bad consequences. Moral issues about the relation we properly stand in to our fellow men are little considered today.

    But rafa is also right that regulation is imposed on principle for ideological purposes that overlay the urge to power. The people sold out to regulation out of fear some decades ago. But the people are NOT the ones demanding more and more regulation today. The mind-blowing level of picayune regulation we now live under is not something the people ever asked for.

    It’s what they got when they sold out to the regulated life. They made regulatory excess possible, but the fears of the people no longer write the regulations. Today, it’s all political factions riding along on the historical regulatory sell-out to advance ideological ideas (e.g., “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”) and gain power on that basis.

    So in terms of a prescription, we have to do two things. First, we have to reform our thinking about life and agree that we can live, and live better, with far less regulation. It won’t be scary or dreadful; it will be empowering. It’s how people should live. It’s a positive good to release the people from the straitjacket of imbecilic regulation.

    Second, we have to fortify our minds against the ideological arguments made for various kinds of regulation. We also have to regain the skeptical sense that whoever wants to regulate us also wants to profit from extracting wealth from us: creating obligations for us that result in income flows for various groups, from advocacy professionals to lawyers to business cronies. We have to regain our natural resistance to being fleeced in this way.

    Can we do it? Pessimists say no. But America has always beaten the odds, and a lot of people are waking up to the reality of our regulatory servitude today. I’m certainly not going to give up.

    1. Much of what you say I agree with, I would only modify your statement that “Some people are naturally devoid of this impulse, but it’s really very few.”

      I suspect its far more than a “very few”.

      Not to minimize the sometimes simplistic naivete of positions that many Libertarians advocate but by and large, libertarians and many, perhaps even most, conservatives share a distaste for using government to impose regulation upon society.

      Where libertarians and some conservatives part company is in a desire to impose their moral standards upon others.

      Nor is advocating in favor of a shared morality the same thing as seeking to force others to abide by that standard.

      “Libertarianism refers to the group of political philosophies that emphasize freedom, liberty, and voluntary association.”

      “The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in the United States. It is also identified by many as the fastest growing political party in the United States.”

      1. “It [the Libertarian Party] is also identified by many as the fastest growing political party in the United States.”

        Mostly due to the governing incompetence of the two main parties, the democracy abusing Democratic Party and the constantly waffling on key conservative issues GOP (Grand, Old but Prostituted) party.

        What’s left, at least for people who aspire to less government intrusion and to more individual freedom, is to be an undecided, a huge group comprised mostly of fence-sitters (as if there were still a lot of issues or political paths left to decide on…), an independent who basically dislikes what both parties have come to represent, or the Libertarian Party which, among other things, advocates a much more hands off style of government. That is something that seems to have much more apeal to conservatives than the big government, big spending approach from both the DNC and the GOP.

        Like I said before in a recent post: More power to the government = less freedom for the people.

        And, so, since I’m one of those “people”…


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