Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale

Regulations are your friends (except when they’re not)


“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.” -Barry Goldwater

“Republicans are going to feed y’all to the Minotaur!”

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.


Author: Rek

A gay Southern conservative with a fondness for God, guns, and gridiron. I'm a veritable pocket full of sunshine.

25 thoughts on “Regulations are your friends (except when they’re not)

  1. I have parallel problems with your epigraph and your main argument. Goldwater’s quote implies that a government not big to help you won’t be big enough to hurt you either, but I see no reason to think that this is true. Similarly, your post seems to imply that bad regulations are a consequence of good ones (unless you’re just saying that good regulations are good and bad regulations are bad). If the government, for example, allows people to use GPS to measure distances, it wouldn’t prevent a corrupt government from going after Uber for other reasons. If the government wanted Uber to run, it would help them work around the rules or change them. The real question should be whether it’s good to allow taxi companies to use GPS in place of an odometer.

    Last, it’s a bit pointless to measure an EPA regulation in terms of cost per job when its main motivation has nothing to do with job creation.

  2. I am so glad I found this blog. A true voice in the Liberal wasteland of America and you have the balls to quote Barry Goldwater. Massive respect, sir.

  3. Great post! Being an ex-compliance senior (in UK) myself I fully understand your well-stated points and agree, such a controlled society will inevitably implode as a result of over-regulation.

  4. I completly agree with u that common-sense regulations have their value.
    Great informations

  5. Writing as an Australian who was taught that the American way was designed to avoid single individuals obtaining so much power they could then play favourites. Isn’t that why your President, any President, has such difficulty getting things done? I’ve been taught that it is not your regulations that are the problem but that you have so many bits of government that cannot, or will not, talk to each other. But its not about size of govenment. That’s a simpletons answer for the poorly educated. Instead, its the structure. In Australia, we can move the machinery of government around comparatively easy compared to the USA. That’s makes us very responsive. It’s not perfect, but it seems to be working a lot better than a lot of other countries.

    • Very interesting! I’ve never considered our government from the point of view of other countries. I would agree with you that our complex system makes it very difficult to get anything accomplished. In fact, it’s a miracle anything gets done at all.

  6. There are much larger problems in the economy than so-called “red tape”. By the way, one man’s red tape is another man’s workplace health and safety, environmental, whatever regulation. Red tape undoubtedly hinders some businesses but it’s not like if a) in some abstract world you could completely eliminate red tape b) the economy would magically heal itself. I’m not suggesting you wrote that but there are lots of people who believe it and it’s magical thinking in the extreme.

    I’m against both bureaucratic politics and rent seeking. Where do you draw the line on “common sense” regulations though?

    • um, you draw on common sense!?! Common sense tells me it’s dangerous to drive without a seat belt. I could take the stance, say, that “it’s my life,” and if I don’t want to wear a seat belt, I shouldn’t have to…that it’s none of the government’s business. But what is its business is how the freedom of not wearing a seat belt might impact (Argh, did I just type a noun and use it as a verb? No worries, regulations certain to follow.) other people should an accident occur. I.e. insurance rates soar – auto and health, and the list continues.

      • If you don’t wear a seat belt and are in an accident, than you are the idiot for being paralyzed or dead! The government regulates too much! If you are a reader, revisit Animal Farm– you will be shocked at the nuances in our own society. Oh, and whatever happened to people taking responsibility for their own actions?

      • Cheryl, I agree with you in principle. We are regulated now to near strangulation. I was writing to underscore the importance of common sense with respect to regulation vs. political log rolling. Look. I am a smoker (okay get the EWwwwS out of your system), and in Ohio you cannot even smoke in own car if it is parked on hospital premises. It is illegal to smoke in parks! I could employ your POV about the smoke only hurting me – and I will have a million people coming back at me with second- and third-hand smoke arguments. In my own car? In a parking lot? How is that hurting anyone other than me? So, the government steps in and regulates where we can smoke. So long as my smoke is not bothering anyone else, I have a problem with that. Afterall, they are MY lungs! There is a lot of political bs out there, people with agendae that have nothing to do with cleaner air, or healthier lungs. Lobbyists get paid a lot of money to persuade those in power to act on their behalf because they are getting paid to do so. Go back to common sense, and regulate smoking in bars and restaurants, but allow people to smoke in outdoor areas. Either that, or just out right make it illegal to smoke, period. But use common sense.

  7. It doesn’t make sense to talk about regulations in a general way. The specifics matter. The lack of Glass-Steagle in our current meltdown, for example. The idea that one is for regulations as a rule, or against them, is basically a refusal to think. Regulations often arise in response to a crisis or a problem in the real world, and each one requires thought to determine whether or not they are working well and are reasonable. Some of them are stupid, yes, but sometimes lack of regulation is equally stupid and equally dangerous. So the case you cite regarding Uber, with which I’m not familiar, sounds like actual obstructionism, but that doesn’t mean we should get rid of regulations in general. After all, to paraphrase Goldwater, a corporation big enough to give you what you want can just as easily take it away (i.e., affordable health insurance). It’s size and power that matter, not simply government vs. the supposed free market.

  8. You are spot on. This is what made America the greatest nation in the world, the idea that individuals were free to do what they wanted as long as we did not infringe on the rights and property of others. The fact that our Constitution set out a very limited government is what kept all the corruption and special-interest influence in check. Sadly, we are becoming just another government-controlled economy like the rest of the world.

  9. Regulations are okay to a certain degree, but this government is corrupt and nothing what it portrays itself to be. Its still the best place to live but plenty of corruption greed and lack of trancperacy.

  10. Amen! I also love how businesses can be sued on a whim, but if the government screws up, such as the FDA approving a drug (under severe pressure/money from a lobby and or company) and the drug causes a myriad of deaths — you can sue the company, but you can’t sue the FDA. Or with our recent financial meltdown, many cite the removal of The Glass Stegall Act as the root cause of the banking crisis. Again, go after the banks, but leave the governmental officials alone whose were directly responsible for, in this case, loosening legislation. The Government always wins, or at least, shirks responsibility.

  11. Good article, promoting much discussion regarding government regulations, good or bad. I think it’s great that we as a people can openly speak almost any way we want to about our government. Isn’t America still great even with its flaws? Since we can all recognize government expansion and control into our personal lives why can’t we recognize the need to reverse it? This country was founded on specific principals of our founding fathers. That to my knowledge are still in effect. I am amazed how quickly people give up their inalienable rights. I see a lot of the “Ostrich syndrome” going on around me. No wonder we are getting the way we are.

  12. Well written, REK. As an old white dude that has seen a number of years pass by, I can attest to the truth in your comments. Take health care for instance. I can remember when one could walk into a doctor’s waiting room, plop down $5 or $10, see the doctor and then go get the pills needed for one’s ailment. Then government came along (think Ted Kennedy) and wrote legislation creating HMO’s and PPO’s. Then, when those were becoming unpopular with the public that had to rely on them, government (again think Ted Kennedy) started to think about passing new legislation to fix the original problem.

    The Affordable Care Act (or whatever it is called other than Obamacare) will prove to be just another instance of government messing up a perfectly “decent” system and replacing it with more regulations.

    Anyone know of a good back alley Quack?

  13. “Young, Gay, Black, Conservative”…. And wicked SMART too. 🙂

  14. What a way to write…Superb..:D

  15. regulations have their place when done for the public protection against corp greed they don’t have a place in the world when the motives are really to protect special interests or prevent competition or to make it so hard to live you become dependant on government. if one man is allowed to do it all should be allowed, if one man is not allowed to do no man should do. if bribery is wrong it is wrong regardless of the reasons given, if murder is wrong it is wrong regardless of the reason (as opposed to true self defence) if fruad is wrong it is wrong one cannot outlaw something for you and me but not the wealthy guys/gals.

  16. Obviously there needs to be some sort of balance between allowing people free will and enacting reasonable regulation that protects us from, say, being poisoned by a greedy corporation. Obviously different people will have different ideas of what “reasonable” is, not to mention in deciding what degree of balance is healthy. It’s not an easy question to answer. I do agree, though, that government regulations supposedly enacted to protect people can indeed be used & abused to protect special interests.

  17. Liked. Great blog Sr! Find so interesting to read.
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  18. Something which I think you appreciate (but some of the people commenting perhaps do not) is that regulation in itself is neither good nor bad. The important thing is that it is proportionate to the good it is intended to do, or the harm it is aimed at preventing. I know that risks being a statement of the bleeding obvious. But sometimes those statements are worth keeping in view. All the best.

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