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Questioning the Value of Regulation

The regulatory approach is focused on the person who needs a warning sign to ensure that he doesn't spill hot coffee on himself.

by
Amit Ghate

Bio

May 6, 2009 - 12:56 am
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Many people were rightly incensed when president Obama fired GM’s CEO and then appointed a car “czar” to force government decisions on the industry.  Never mind that the president isn’t qualified to run a business or that his team can’t even navigate simple tax forms. The real moral here is that our unquestioning acceptance of the regulatory state makes such outrages possible.

Observe that for decades now, the FCC decides what material is appropriate for us to see and hear; the FDA decides which food and drugs we can ingest;  the FDIC and SEC decide which banks and investment firms we can trust.  Social Security is mandatory because we can’t be counted on to save for retirement.  At every turn, government claims that we’re incapable of looking after ourselves, so it must do it for us – by controlling and regulating our thoughts and actions.

But do we need the government to think for us?  To the contrary!

When people are free to think for themselves, they do — and the results are some of the most creative and prosperous societies in history.  Consider cultures in freer times: the types of discourse and inquiry in Ancient Greece; the advances in the arts during the Renaissance; the level of debate during the nation’s founding; and the outpouring of innovation and wealth following the Industrial Revolution.

Even today, in the few sectors where the government has not imposed heavy regulation, people actively pursue knowledge and develop new ideas. In the field of computers and technology, for example, many people, despite having no formal technical training, are incredibly knowledgeable about the newest phones, cameras, networking sites, software tools, and much more.  And because there is no regulation, innovation comes from all quarters. Two 23-year-olds invented the search algorithm that revolutionized the Internet. A teenager created Linux.  We could expect similar feats in fields like medicine or aviation, if only we dismantled the onerous control of the FDA and FAA.

For at its root, all knowledge and value-creation comes from the independent mind. Progress isn’t the result of government agencies issuing directives and decrees, but of individuals who are free to follow their own lines of inquiry, to pursue facts they deem relevant.  Aristotle, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein all advanced our knowledge because they were free to exercise their judgment regardless of anyone else’s wishes or dogma. And the same is true of most achievements, on whatever scale.

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