Thursday, February 06, 2014
An article with some interesting polling data about the regulatory
state indirectly reminded me of the approach taken by Yaron Brook and Don
Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute in a recent piece in USA Today. In
the former piece, we have the following question-and-answer:
Americans from fishermen to insurance agents are getting tired of being victimized by their own government, said the report's poll section: "68 percent believe regulations are created by 'out-of-touch people trying to push a political agenda' rather than by 'well-intentioned people trying to address real challenges' (26 percent)."Left unasked, and demonstrating the limitations of polls in the process, was the following question: "Should the government be in the business of telling us how to run our affairs at all?" The whole line of questioning by this "watchdog" group reminds me of the Brook and Watkins piece, where they comment on the question of whether our government is doing too little or too much by stating, "The question we need to ask, however, is not whether the government should do more or less, but what should it do."
The flaw in the questioning is very deep, morally and practically. In addition to ignoring the fact that government regulation (a.k.a. prescriptive law, a.k.a. central planning) violates individual rights, the questions assume that benevolent or beneficial regulation is possible at all. Consider the polling questions in light of the following observation by economist George Reisman:
The overwhelming majority of people have not realized that all the thinking and planning about their economic activities that they perform in their capacity as individuals actually is economic planning. By the same token, the term "planning" has been reserved for the feeble efforts of a comparative handful of government officials, who, having prohibited the planning of everyone else, presume to substitute their knowledge and intelligence for the knowledge and intelligence of tens of millions, and to call that planning. [bold added]It is hard to imagine how, in the words of one of the questions asked by the Center for Regulatory Solutions, a government regulatory scheme even could be -- much less end up looking like it was -- crafted by "well-intentioned people trying to address real challenges".
Central planning is immoral and impractical. It should be watched, but only with an eye for personal protection and ultimate abolishment. While it can be pruned back or made less harmful in the short term, it will only metastasize again if not recognized as the threat to freedom that it is and removed accordingly.
Regarding regulations and entitlement programs, what we need aren't watchdogs, but hunting dogs.