Is Government Regulation Necessary?
Government regulations are everywhere,
from the smallest little village to the
humongous Federal government. Any time that
someone gets killed or injured, a whole army
of do-gooders look for ways to pass a law so
that event never happens again.
Unfortunately, the event is usually
repeated, just in another form. The question
arises, are all these government regulations
Some recent studies concerning traffic
regulations have shown that eliminating
government imposed regulations actually
improves safety. These studies were done
over the world in places like London. The
traffic experiment involved removing all
signs, traffic lights, stop signs, and other
controlling mechanisms. The results showed
that traffic moved more orderly and that
less accidents occurred than when all these
devices were in place. What happened is that
people quickly learned that without the
imposed regulations, they needed to
cooperate in order to have smoothly running
traffic and to avoid crashes and injuries.
People formed common sense “regulations”
that they followed. Everyone soon learned
these rules of the road and they became much
more courteous to their fellow drivers and
the pedestrians. Why did this work?
RESPONSIBILITY FOR BEHAVIOR
When the government was in charge of
making regulations, putting up signs,
installing traffic lights, etc., the
bureaucracy became responsible for behavior.
When all these controls were removed, the
people had to be responsible for their own
behavior. What a difference in attitude!
Peer pressure is involved in this
process. And the views of your peers are far
stronger than the regulations of government.
If a teenager’s friends think it is OK to
smoke pot, the average teenager will side
with the peers and ignore the laws.
People learn to be honest with each other
or else they won’t have many friends. Laws
would not have any significant effect.
Either people are honest because it is in
their best interest, or else they have found
it rewarding to be dishonest. If dishonesty
includes stealing, then some people think
that they can get away with it and they’ll
do it whether there is a law in place or
not. The law only helps in determining the
penalty, if caught. Without laws, the civil
court system can be used to sue the robber
and recover damages, which might be far more
than the actual worth of the theft. It might
include cutting off the hand as practiced in
the Middle East.
Government and its regulations are not
essential to a smoothly running society. But
once government takes responsibility for
society’s organization, it lets the people
off the hook.
COMMON SENSE APPLIED TO LAWS AND
When people are responsible for their own
actions, society almost surely runs smoother
than when some other body is in charge.
People just naturally follow what they think
is right but not so much when someone else
imposes their ideas. America was founded on
the idea of individual responsibility
implying small government.
So how do we place the responsibility
back on the individual? Rather than
willy-nilly passing laws to cover every
possible injustice in the country, we must
carefully evaluate whether a new law is the
only way to solve a problem. In most cases
where the government has assumed
responsibility, it is the wrong solution.
As an example, take the Gulf oil spill.
The knee-jerk reaction is to impose more
regulations on the oil industry. And surely
we can’t expect a single company to police
itself when nobody owns the Gulf resources.
Self-policing will work in many areas, like,
say, restaurants. Particularly with modern
communications, the restaurant cannot afford
to have a reputation of serving dangerous
food. But in the Gulf, it is the well-known
tragedy of the commons where the resources
are not taken care as well as if they were
truly owned. But the answer lies in industry
forming an association that sets its own
standards for drilling in the Gulf. The only
government involvement might be to require
anybody that drills to belong to that
association. The association would
discipline itself and probably set higher
standards because all of their reputations
are at stake, not just one.
On the other hand, when the government
sets the regulations, all of a sudden the
responsibility becomes that of the
government. Only if the company violated the
government rules is it responsible,
otherwise the government is responsible
because it set the rules. Rules set by an
association of oil drillers whose reputation
is at stake will be far stronger than that
of a bureaucrat in Washington who won’t even
get fired for getting it wrong.
The U.S. is drowning in regulations; it
no longer will be able to lead the world
without some changes. Getting the government
out of the regulatory business is an
important first step.