This one was Dean’s idea, and I think it’s got a lot of potential. Dean said he wanted us to explore the arguments that having “more” or “less” government regulation of business would solve a lot of our problems because that is the simple way the right and left often talk about the topic. Fewer regs = good = more freedom. Or, More regs = good = control evil corporations. To be sure, it is hard to debate such vague, I-love-my-ideology slogans. But regulating business to ensure that markets function smoothly and t protect the public interest is a core function of govt. Not to mention, we’re living in a country where presidential candidates promise to build 3,000 mile fences and turn us into Denmark, so I don’t think any proposal is too simplistic to merit our attention.
Now, we all know that there is no such thing as a completely unregulated market. In any market the public sector is there to help set and enforce the rules; police fraud and protect the rights of consumers, workers, and owners; provide and maintain the public goods that markets rely on, etc. As an article I’ve linked to before put it, Markets Are Not Magic.
But IMO, even the simplest slogans for reduced less government regulation raise key and complicated issues. Regulations always impose costs on businesses and often on workers and consumers, too. Some of those costs are easy to measure and to compare to the regs’ benefits. But, other costs are hard to determine and much harder to predict, like when regulation stifles competition and innovation, protects the powerful at everyone else’s expense, distorts prices and investment decisions, and erodes our companies competitiveness internationally. The way I see it, our topic is more like two questions.
- How can we know the true benefits and costs of government regs and therefore whose interests they really serve?
- How can we make govt regulation flexible enough to be effective and efficient as our economy rapidly evolves in the future?
I’ll explain what I mean a bit more in my intro on Monday and then ask Dean for his thoughts. CivCon has had several recent meetings related to govt regulation. (Aug ‘15 Is Big Finance finally tamed? Dec. ’12: What’s holding back small businesses? Feb. ’13: Religious conscience exemptions.) So, I’ll be brief and non-industry specific. I will, however, take the time to highlight the above and a few other important problems/issues facing federal and state and local govt regulation going forward.
Discussion Questions –
- What justifies govt regulation of business? What should be the goals?
- How (and how well) do they calculate the benefits and costs of regs? What factors, other than the raw $$$, should be considered, and whose voices are heard and not heard?
- Which govt regs are the most and least popular with (1) the public, (2) workers and consumers, (3) entrepreneurs and small biz, and (4) big corporations? Any common villains or inevitable conflicts of interest?
- Which regs do Republicans/Democrats want to repeal/add/change? Why? Why really?
- What needs to be done to keep regulation effective and efficient as our economy evolves?
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
What Do People Want?
- Public opinion: By a 2 to 1 margin, Americans favor the POV that there are “too many” govt regs on biz rather than “too few.”
- But, notice that people like most specific regs and strongly approve of the their goals.
Asking the Right Questions –
- Do we need “more or less” regs is too simple a question. Recommended.
- What (and who) are corporations for is kind of at issue.
Benefits and Costs of Govt Regulations –
- ABCs of how they assess costs and benefits.
- Do regs harm business or cost jobs?
We Need FEWER Govt Regs –
No, We Need MORE Govt Regs –
- Krugman: Recent events highlight need for strong regs of corporate abuses.
- Hillary Clinton wants heavier regs of Wall Street.
- Progressives got big dreams: Rewrite the rules of our economy to fix our problems. Recommended.
21st Century Regulation – [longer and harder, but key]
- Five basic principles should guide us. Recommended.
- Fewer and more flexible regulations will be needed.
Next Week: Trumpism – What is it and will It will outlast him?