Listening to the news lately, you’d think that the whole idea of “regulations” was an evil conspired by the most wicked commie/socialists ever born. Our dear, current (for now, anyway) president, Donnie-John (thank you Tina Fey), simply loves to go on and on about how regulations are destroying America. The implication, of course, is that regulations of any kind are, inherently, bad in any form (and that’s the key, really). The free market, it is assumed, will be the arbiter of what does and does not work. De-regulation will free the markets, which will therefor allow us to be the best that we can be. If only we have the will to lift off the heavy burden of “regulations.”
Lets think about that for a minute.
What does it mean to regulate, anyway? According to Random House, to regulate is to “adjust for some standard or requirement, or so as to ensure accuracy of operation,” or to “put in good order.”
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Don’t you want things in “good order?” I mean, who wouldn’t?
In fact, don’t we all sort of “regulate” stuff all the time? What happens if you decide to stop “regulating” your lawn and let it become it’s natural self? Imagine of you stopped imposing regulations on your finger and toenails? I mean, what about soap? Isn’t that a regulator of some kind? Or deodorant, toothpaste and mouthwash?
Okay, too obvious? I get it. So, then, how about statins? You got high blood pressure, should you just let it ride? Hey, even if its only changing the foods you eat to keep it down, doesn’t your doctor say that you need to “regulate” your diet (and maybe Donnie-John should give that a little more consideration)? Which doesn’t even begin to mention each and every other drug that is made to keep us healthy.
(Wait a minute, did I just imply that a regulatory remedy might keep us healthy? Imagine?)
But really, that is not the same thing, right? Regulating stuff to make us healthy, or to make our lawns look nice are not the same as those horrible regulations that the commie/socialists are imposing on American businesses. Its the legal regulations that are killing us. All those laws and agency regulations and stuff that just gets in the way of getting really good stuff done. That’s the problem, right?
Red lights. Parking meters. Restraining orders. Hurting people. Jails.
Oh, what? Those are okay? Its okay to have regulations that keep the peace and harmony of our social fabric?
Okay, got it. So what we don’t want are… what again?
So, what about when they used to package bad meat and sell it and people got sick? Or when they had little kids working 15 hours a day? Was it okay to regulate that stuff?
No, that wasn’t okay either, but I think we’re getting closer, right? How about when the Cuyahoga River caught fire? Was it okay to do some regulating there? Or is it okay to live with dirty rivers? Also not good?
Were you okay with the whole 2008 financial meltdown, with the mortgage default swaps and other stuff that even the most intelligent among us still can’t figure out? I think we have a few takers there, right? Now we’re starting to cut into the bone a little.
And maybe, somewhere along that spectrum, there is a line where intelligent people can argue that regulations have gone a little too far. That we can scale it back here or there and simplify the way we get things done without risking collateral damage.
But that really isn’t the point right now, is it? The current debate isn’t about shades of gray. Because gray areas don’t get people all riled up. Because the idea of regulating stuff is bad.
And because someone has to win, we probably won’t have the nuanced outcome that a good haircut could probably provide.