A Battle Not Yet Fought

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writing for Bloomberg, Cass Sunstein gives us the bad news and the good news regarding Donald Trump's effort to reduce the number of regulations. (Yes. We are setting aside for a moment (1) the premise that a lower number of regulations is necessarily a step in the direction of economic freedom, and (2) for that matter, the whole question of why, exactly, Trump wants to do this, although I think his heart's in the right place.)

If the agency gets its act together and moves quickly, the process of finalizing a repeal of a rule is likely to take an additional two months. It can take as much as a year or more. From start to finish, repealing a regulation can occupy the better part of a first presidential term.

And that's not the end of the matter. The agency's decision might be challenged in court. If it defies the law or the evidence, it's going to be struck down. [bold added]
The bad news is obvious to anyone who, like me, wishes to remove the enormous threat to our prosperity regulations represent.

The good news is less obvious, but it's there. The slowness of the process, which includes the opportunity for public input, is due to rule of law -- the thing we must really change to achieve any meaningful or lasting reduction of regulations, anyway.

Sunstein and other paternalists may be relieved, or even secretly gleeful when they realize that Trump won't make meaningful progress, even at his stated goal. But their opponents must remember two things: (1) Trump will probably at least not represent great forward progress in the enactment of new regulations, and (2) We should remember why his efforts will likely fail, as well as why it was the wrong goal in the first place. Better yet, we can take the time Trump is buying us to make a positive case for freedom rather than allowing the need to remove regulations to reduce us to being merely against regulations, or otherwise limit the scope of our advocacy for freedom.

As slow as turning the tide may be, the American people are ultimately still in charge. Enough people can still be persuaded, eventually, that, say, the EPA is a threat to the environment of political freedom they need -- and when they do, we won't be squabbling over a regulation or two. (And we won't necessarily be talking about striking them from the books using the procedures Sunstein alludes to, either.) But persuasion requires ideas and arguments, the very things Trump isn't deploying right now. His defeat should point us in the direction of fighting better, rather than serve as an example of what will be alleged to be the futility of ever unshackling the American economy.

-- CAV

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