Over Regulation Caused The Fall

Years from now when future historians are contemplating the reasons the Great American Empire fell, this is one of the documents they’ll most likely read – A recent article from The Economist (which is normally very Left leaning) describes how the home of the Free Market (laissez-faire) is being consumed by over regulation.

The article references the 848 pages of Dodd-Frank as a prime example of a bill that started with noble intentions but quickly ran off the rails with bureaucratic tinkering (although the bill was passed in 2010, only 93 of the 400 rules have been finalized).  It also talks about Obamacare that, among other overreaches, increased the number of illness and injury categories from 18,000 to 140,000 (there are three related to burns from flaming water-skis).

Read the whole article to get the full effect but here are a few of my favorite paragraphs (Note: The Economist is published in England so the spelling below is representative of how our brothers and sisters over the pond write).

“Two forces make American laws too complex. One is hubris. Many lawmakers seem to believe that they can lay down rules to govern every eventuality. Examples range from the merely annoying (eg, a proposed code for nurseries in Colorado that specifies how many crayons each box must contain) to the delusional (eg, the conceit of Dodd-Frank that you can anticipate and ban every nasty trick financiers will dream up in the future). Far from preventing abuses, complexity creates loopholes that the shrewd can abuse with impunity.”

“The other force that makes American laws complex is lobbying. The government’s drive to micromanage so many activities creates a huge incentive for interest groups to push for special favours. When a bill is hundreds of pages long, it is not hard for congressmen to slip in clauses that benefit their chums and campaign donors. The health-care bill included tons of favours for the pushy. Congress’s last, failed attempt to regulate greenhouse gases was even worse.”

“Democrats pay lip service to the need to slim the rulebook—Mr Obama’s regulations tsar is supposed to ensure that new rules are cost-effective. But the administration has a bias towards overstating benefits and underestimating costs (see article). Republicans bluster that they will repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank and abolish whole government agencies, but give only a sketchy idea of what should replace them.”

“America needs a smarter approach to regulation. First, all important rules should be subjected to cost-benefit analysis by an independent watchdog. The results should be made public before the rule is enacted. All big regulations should also come with sunset clauses, so that they expire after, say, ten years unless Congress explicitly re-authorises them.”

“More important, rules need to be much simpler. When regulators try to write an all-purpose instruction manual, the truly important dos and don’ts are lost in an ocean of verbiage. Far better to lay down broad goals and prescribe only what is strictly necessary to achieve them. Legislators should pass simple rules, and leave regulators to enforce them.”

“Would this hand too much power to unelected bureaucrats? Not if they are made more accountable. Unreasonable judgments should be subject to swift appeal. Regulators who make bad decisions should be easily sackable. None of this will resolve the inevitable difficulties of regulating a complex modern society. But it would mitigate a real danger: that regulation may crush the life out of America’s economy.”


ADDENDUM: I have written my own assessments at the over regulation in the US and the damage it is causing.  You can see them here, here, here and here.

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