In the 1989 “Back to the Future” sequel, Marty McFly and “Doc” Emmett L. Brown travel to October 21, 2015 — and the world is unrecognizable. “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” Doc Brown declares, as the DeLorean soars into the air.
Contrary to the film’s prophetic vision, our cars don’t fly, or run on nuclear energy, converting trash into fuel. Our teenagers do not fly around on hover boards, and our shoes don’t automatically lace themselves up. What happened?
Big government happened — the explosion of regulation and administration has held America back from all sorts of innovations, from sunscreen to nuclear power. Last year, the government added 77,687 pages of federal regulations, costing American consumers and businesses nearly $1.9 trillion, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” has created 13,000 pages of new regulations, caused a mass consolidation of the healthcare industry, and has increased prices across the board. No less than eight CO-OPs — nonprofit insurers created by Obamacare — have folded this year.
On October 1, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized what may become the most expensive regulation in history, using false science to argue that making ozone rules even stricter will improve public health. Some are even claiming that, with self-driving cars, we need to make the switch to automated drivers, and outlaw human drivers. Talk about the furthest thing from flying cars.
If you’re waiting for the nuclear-power generator where you turn your trash into energy, don’t hold your breath. Nuclear energy may be the safest, most effective, and least-polluting form of energy, but that doesn’t mean Obama will start issuing grants like the ones set up for solar and wind.
If technology has been held back in recent years, why did “Back to the Future” predict that America would have flying cars, hoverboards, and widespread nuclear energy by 2015? In the 1980s, there was good reason for optimism. Falling taxes, a strong dollar, and deregulation of industry transformed the “stagflation” of the 1970s into a near-decade long boom. The ’80s produced the personal computer, the CD player, and the mobile phone.
Innovation has not stopped since the 1980s — the internet, the iPhone, and companies like Uber represent great leaps forward — but often they come in the teeth of government resistance. Uber, the ride-sharing company which allows you to hail a car with your phone, has faced legal challenges from numerous established taxi organizations. This year, it finally became legal to “unlock” your phone — using the same phone after a contract with the carrier ends.
Government regulations provide some key rules for business and the public, but they also often hold back the tide of progress. The $1.9 trillion in regulation compliance every year takes money away from the innovators who could develop the next world-changing technology, like the iPhone, the personal computer, or the flying car. Instead, that money goes to lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists, further entrenching established interests and big government.
The road to flying cars, hoverboards, and everyday nuclear energy which converts trash into fuel starts with further deregulation, freer markets, and a more restrained federal government. If you want real progress, support the only economic system that has proven effective at fighting poverty.