Big government, big business

Power and profit

It’s a myth that big business hates government regulation and worries that the Democrats will take office. They contribute to both parties (is it bribery or extortion? and does it matter?), and they like regulation it just fine – it restrains competition by raising barriers to entry and by securing market share for each established player.

“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.” — Over-regulated America

It’s another myth that if we just elect enough Republicans they’ll reduce the size and scope of government. Neither party will do that, because politicians will never give up the power. Democrat and Republican legislators write laws that favor somewhat different big businesses and constituencies, but the permanent bureaucracy of regulators isn’t going anywhere. The courts won’t help, unless by adding a bit of unpredictability. The best hope for the rest of us is gridlock from divided government, and occasional periods when new disruptive technology gets ahead of the government’s capacity to regulate.

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