My article as originally published in American Thinker:
Government regulation is a hidden tax that now consumes an astonishing $1.9 trillion of the U.S. economy per year. I’m preaching to the choir here, but for those seeking ways to converse with others about how destructive and unnecessary most regulations are, try discussing the voluntary exchanges that occur while dining out at a favorite restaurant. People may go for the food, atmosphere, or for economic reasons, but they do so primarily out of self-interest. And neither local politician nor D.C. bureaucrat is needed to tell them where to go, what to eat, how much to eat, how to eat it or how much money to spend. If the food sucks, the service is terrible, if someone gets food poisoning, no form of regulation is needed to tell even low-info types it’s time to dine elsewhere.
Regulatory aficionados (such as Obama, Bloomberg, and Jonathan Gruber) think otherwise and believe we’re all too stupid to make everyday decisions on our own. And unfortunately, too many Americans appear to feel that much of this regulation is both necessary and innocuous. But people should understand that just as government regulation isn’t needed to “save” them from a terrible dining experience, the same holds true with regard to nearly all the voluntary transactions that occur within the marketplace, e.g., what size soda to buy; the securing of a payday loan; ensuring restaurant employees wash their hands; the amount of salt preferred in food or the minimum wage that is paid to an individual.
Additionally, those in support of being “protected” by the nanny-state should be aware the cost to society is even greater than what is easily seen (to borrow from Bastiat). Sure, it’s easy to envision the added expense of compliance: the permits; the mountains of paperwork; the time-consuming inspections or costly signage that regulations impose upon businesses. But what also needs to be visualized is the enormous, ever-growing army of unelected bureaucrats that politicians put in place to bring about and enforce all of this needless regulation.
So while dining out, it’s as if a large group of regulators are seated with us in the restaurant, unnecessarily making numerous decisions for the patrons, restaurant owners, employees, vendors, and about darn near everything else — bolted down or otherwise. These “public servants” consume resources as if they’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet, continually search for new things to regulate and compliance is never optional. In the end, it is “We the People” who are stuck paying the entire bill, part of which now ends up on the “credit card” for future generations to labor over.
The crux of the problem is that even if these regulators were to do as efficient a job as the free market — they can’t and don’t — they are merely “dining” at the expense of everyone else in the “restaurant.” It’s impossible for society to truly “progress” when a growing number of unaccountable bureaucrats are gobbling up tax dollars for no reason and driving up product and service prices with an ever-growing number of superfluous dictates. Free markets (combined with equal protection under the law) are already self-regulating because unlike the DMV, Post Office or Amtrak, businesses that fail to modify bad or inefficient ways will eventually go out of business. So why then are we constantly being force-fed more and more of these redundant regulations?
The dirty little secret — the rancid meat statists attempt to heavily season over with the promise of Utopia — is that coupled with an entourage of hungry bureaucrats and cronies, top-down regulatory control enables folks like Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and a host of status quo Republicans and Democrats to gain real power and become fantastically wealthy without ever having to provide anything of real economic value to society. Making a living in this way is a much easier task than having to provide a product or service to citizens (like a restaurant owner or the Koch brothers must do) who are able to freely vote yea or nay with their pocketbooks.
This is in part why the zip codes that surround the D.C. area have become among the wealthiest in the nation. All while the labor participation rate is at a thirty-year low, food stamp usage is near an all-time high, and more American small businesses are dying than being created.
The fact that government regulation isn’t needed to enjoy a night out at a restaurant should be a fairly easy concept to grasp. But we’re not just dining with big-government, we’re being forced to live with it on a nearly 24/7 basis. And as Governor Moonbeam (a connoisseur of all things regulatory) recently said while discussing California’s government-caused water shortages: “that’s the beauty of government, it doesn’t go away.”
Nanny-state regulations and the regulators who impose them won’t “go away” unless more Americans become enlightened and begin to lose their appetite for big-government.