“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.” -Barry Goldwater
I like regulations. In theory, they do great things like protect the environment and keep people from dying. They can also keep lead out of our children’s toys and prevent disastrously precarious housing bubbles. But when you realize that given regulations could cost as much as $1.2 million per job created, you start to wonder how serious the cost-benefit analysis on these proposals are and whether they’re all really worth it. Then again, given that President Obama’s stimulus, by the administration’s own numbers, cost $317,000 per job, I guess things could be worse. But if we’re throwing yet another party of low expectations, I’d rather just head to the bar.
Speaking of costs, Boston officials recently shut down Uber, a smartphone-accessible on-demand car service, because the company uses GPS to better serve its customers. That’s right, government officials actually shuttered a successful startup—and all the jobs it created—because its technology was too advanced for the Massachusetts Division of Standards. I can’t imagine why that region is losing people.
Lest you think this madness isolated to New England, Uber has also had a rocky relationship with Washington, D.C. Apparently, the startup’s innovative business model threatens to compete with the district’s dysfunctional taxi establishment. Rather than applaud this development like reasonable people, D.C. lawmakers want to protect the antiquated system by forcing Uber to be five times more expensive than regular taxis. How any of this is supposed to save lives or protect consumers is beyond me. But it would definitely be good for the taxi industry that helped elect D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. You know, the guy whose administration is a cesspool of corruption.
We can all agree that common-sense regulations have their value. But the conversation has gotten far beyond questions of flammable tap water and polluted air. Government control is creeping ever deeper into the everyday operations of the private sphere, not for the good of society, but to repay the political support of special interests. Strangely, all this nepotistic protectionism is proving detrimental to the economy. It’s almost like feudalism failed or something.
You don’t have to be a free-market libertarian to notice that even the strongest arguments for robust regulations still must contend with very human—and often irrational—actors. At the end of the day, people in power will usually do what’s best for the people who support them, the public good be damned. The fairest approach is to limit the ability of the state to interfere with the success of small business that can’t afford the bribes political contributions to buy special treatment. Only then can we get the full range of innovation and economic growth that will benefit everybody.
Now is not the time to put y’all the economy back in chains. Successful, innovative businesses toiled long days and hot nights to build this country. It’s time to set them free.