Free Markets, Free People
Niall Ferguson has a piece in the Wall Street Journal which talks about the growth of regulation within the nation. He starts with a quote from de Tocqueville in which de Tocqueville marvels at how Americans manage to self-regulate through associations. He then notes that de Tocqueville wouldn’t recognize the US if he were to suddenly come back. It looks too much like Europe.
Regulation has crept in to help smother us all the while the culture has changed to where Americans seem to no longer look to each other to solve problems, but instead look to government.
Regulations are simply a symptom of this business and autonomy killing movement. And their growth track pretty well with our demise:
As the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Clyde Wayne Crews shows in his invaluable annual survey of the federal regulatory state, we have become the regulation nation almost imperceptibly. Excluding blank pages, the 2012 Federal Register—the official directory of regulation—today runs to 78,961 pages. Back in 1986 it was 44,812 pages. In 1936 it was just 2,620.
True, our economy today is much larger than it was in 1936—around 12 times larger, allowing for inflation. But the Federal Register has grown by a factor of 30 in the same period.
The last time regulation was cut was under Ronald Reagan, when the number of pages in the Federal Register fell by 31%. Surprise: Real GDP grew by 30% in that same period. But Leviathan’s diet lasted just eight years. Since 1993, 81,883 new rules have been issued. In the past 10 years, the “final rules” issued by our 63 federal departments, agencies and commissions have outnumbered laws passed by Congress 223 to 1.
Right now there are 4,062 new regulations at various stages of implementation, of which 224 are deemed “economically significant,” i.e., their economic impact will exceed $100 million.
The cost of all this, Mr. Crews estimates, is $1.8 trillion annually—that’s on top of the federal government’s $3.5 trillion in outlays, so it is equivalent to an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP. Especially invidious is the fact that the costs of regulation for small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) are 36% higher per employee than they are for bigger firms.
Got that? 224 new regulations which will have an economic impact that will “exceed $100 million” dollars. Negatively of course. That was the purpose of having regulations rated like that – to understand the probable negative economic impact. And we have 224 in the hopper, in a very down economy, which will exceed the negative $100 million dollar mark. What are those people thinking? Or are they? Indications are they give it no thought when these new regulations are proffered. They just note the cost and move on. No skin of their rear ends.
And if you think that’s bad, just wait:
Next year’s big treat will be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, something every small business in the country must be looking forward to with eager anticipation. Then, as Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) warned readers on this page 10 months ago, there’s also the Labor Department’s new fiduciary rule, which will increase the cost of retirement planning for middle-class workers; the EPA’s new Ozone Rule, which will impose up to $90 billion in yearly costs on American manufacturers; and the Department of Transportation’s Rear-View Camera Rule. That’s so you never have to turn your head around when backing up.
Yes, that’s right, they’re hardly done. In fact, they’re not even slowing down. The accumulation of power within the central government – the ability to intrude in almost every aspect of your life – is attempting to reach warp speed.
Finally, as if what I’ve noted isn’t enough, we have another costly travesty in the gestation stage, i.e. the “Gang of 8′s” immigration bill. From PowerLine:
The CBO confirms that the bill provides for a vast influx of new, legal immigration. The Senate Budget Committee says:
CBO projects 16 million new immigrants will be added by 2033 on top of the current law projected flow of 22 million and that 8 million illegal immigrants will be granted permanent status – for a total of 46 million legal immigrants, including a doubling of guest workers to 1.6 million in a single year.
Contrary to the claims of the bill’s sponsors, this influx will be overwhelmingly low-skilled. The CBO says:
[T]he new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law.
The result is that unemployment will increase, and wages will be driven down, for America’s existing blue collar work force:
Taking into account all of those flows of new immigrants, CBO and JCT expect that a greater number of immigrants with lower skills than with higher skills would be added to the workforce, slightly pushing down the average wage for the labor force as a whole… However, CBO and JCT expect that currently unauthorized workers who would obtain legal status under S. 744 would see an increase in their average wages.
Terrific: the only ones who would gain would be those who came here illegally, while native born workers would suffer. The CBO report continues:
[T]he average wage would be lower than under current law over the first dozen years. … CBO estimates that S. 744 would cause the unemployment rate to increase slightly between 2014 and 2020.
Ruinous? Along with everything else, pretty much.
To say America has lost it’s way is, well, an understatement. We aren’t close to being what was envisioned at our founding and we’re almost kissing cousins of that which our Founders attempted to keep us from becoming – today’s Europe.
Unfortunately, that ruinous drift and over reliance on government seems to be fine for all too many of those who call themselves Americans today.
I know that’ll come as an absolute stunner, huh? Not really. Regulation costs money. It costs money for compliance enforcement, which comes from taxes, and it costs companies money for compliance in the form of higher costs – costs that are passed on to consumers.
So? So – from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, find out:
Low-income households benefit the most when they act to reduce their exposure to the greatest risks they face, such as relatively common events and activities that cause illness, injury, and death, many of which can be traced to living in unsafe neighborhoods. In contrast, high-income households generally focus more on small risks—for example, tiny environmental risks that are far less likely to occur and generally affect fewer people at the expo- sure levels regulations address.
LOWER INCOME HOUSEHOLDS BEAR MORE OF THE COSTS OF REGULATION
Regulation focused on small risks delivers benefits to a limited group but spreads the costs across everyone. As a result, regulation effectively transfers money from low income households, who need to prevent larger risks, to high income households, who are concerned about small risks. Low income households are, in a sense, paying for the lifestyle preferences of the wealthy.
Such regulation increases consumer prices and lowers worker wages.
• Regulations act like a regressive sales tax, with middle and lower income households bearing much of the cost of rules that focus on the risk preferences of wealthier households, since they all pay the same, higher prices.
• Cost of regulation as a share of income is estimated to be as much as six to eight times higher for low-income households than for high-income households.
• [Diana] Thomas estimates that households can mitigate the same level of mortality risks privately for about one fifth of the cost of public risk-reduction strategies.
Well, imagine that, the laws of economics at work in a very predictable way. And, of course, completely opposite of the professed claim of the left to be on the side of the poor. Because it is that very group that continually push more and more regulation because, one assumes, they believe if some regulation is good, more has to be better. But, as a group, being mostly economically illiterate combined with unaccountable faith in government power, they end up with these sorts of ‘unintended consequences’ all of the time.
If you love ObamaCare, you’re sure to be thrilled with whatever comes out of this attempt to cash in on taxing thin air. Climate change is going to be a “priority” because it would be a new source of revenue, nothing more:
President Obama has identified climate change as one of his top three priorities in his second term after coming under fire from environmentalists for giving the issue short shrift during the campaign.
The president, in an interview for TIME’s Person of the Year award, said the economy, immigration, climate change and energy would be at the top of his agenda for the next four years.
The interview took place before the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, an incident that had pushed gun control to a top spot on Obama’s agenda.
Obama said his daughters have influenced his thinking about the need to tackle climate change.
“[O]n an issue like climate change, for example, I think for this country and the world to ask some very tough questions about what are we leaving behind, that weighs on you. And not to mention the fact I think that generation is much more environmentally aware than previous generations,” he told TIME.
The comments continued a trend of Obama vowing to focus on climate without laying out details of his agenda.
You have to be stunned by the irony of his statements. The man has been “influenced” by indoctrinated children. Just as stunning is his statement about asking “tough questions about what we are leaving behind”. One has to wonder if he’s looked at the record debt he’s piling on which will have to be paid by future generation in their standard of living, taxes and productivity. Now he wants to add more cost to that future by involving government in regulating CO2.
That despite the fact, no inspite of the fact, that the science he’d base his “priority” upon has simply fallen apart.
The analysis of global combined land and ocean surface temperature in [the IPCC’s draft report] is inadequate for what it admits is seen as the prime statistic of global warming. It is highly selective in the references it quotes and in the use of time periods which obscures important, albeit inconvenient, aspects of the temperature data. It is poorly drafted, often making a strong assertion, and then somewhat later qualifying if not contradicting it by admitting its statistical insignificance.
Real science simply doesn’t agree with the alarmist creed established by Al Gore, the UN IPCC and the other prophets of doom:
We can now estimate, based on observations, how sensitive the temperature is to carbon dioxide. We do not need to rely heavily on unproven models. Comparing the trend in global temperature over the past 100-150 years with the change in “radiative forcing” (heating or cooling power) from carbon dioxide, aerosols and other sources, minus ocean heat uptake, can now give a good estimate of climate sensitivity. The conclusion – taking the best observational estimates of the change in decadal-average global temperature between 1871-80 and 2002-11, and of the corresponding changes in forcing and ocean heat uptake – is this: a doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of 1.6-1.7C. This is much lower than the IPCC’s current best estimate, 3C.
But a politician has an inherent ability to sniff out potential revenue sources even when they’re just faintly carried by the wind.
The result of such policy and legislation will be even worse of an economic disaster than ObamaCare. The “solution” will cost us much more than the “problem” was ever worth in terms of GDP, jobs and economic progress.
However, Obama will then be able to report to his two daughters who’ve been feed the alarmist creed for years that he “did something”, even if that something was, as usual, with your money and has forced you to reprioritize your own life downward.
It is the nature of the beast – and unfortunately we continue to allow the beast to feed at will and seem to find it natural that the beast is involved in all aspects of our life. All we argue about is which group we’re going to sacrifice to the beast. This time it’s the “rich”.
Oh, and gun control is also a 2nd term “priority” – more on that later.
Thankfully, the US has taken the proper position on this one:
The United States said Thursday that it will not sign a United Nations telecommunications treaty that U.S. technology companies warn would disrupt governance of the Internet and open the door to online censorship.
The U.K. and Canada also said they would not ratify the treaty after negotiations ended at a conference hosted by the U.N. International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Dubai.
Kramer, who led the U.S. delegation during the conference, told reporters on a conference call that the U.S. could not sign the treaty because there were “too many issues here that were problematic for us.”
The treaty is intended to govern how telephone calls and other communications traffic are exchanged internationally. While it is not a legally binding document, Kramer said the U.S. opposed extending the scope of the treaty to include Internet governance and online content matters.
“The U.S. will continue to uphold and advance the multi-stakeholder model of the Internet,” Kramer told reporters.
The U.S. believed the treaty should not apply to Internet providers or private and government networks. Instead, U.S. delegates argued that only traditional telecommunications operators, such as AT&T and Verizon, should be subject to the updated rules.
Another attempted power grab by the UN and more importantly, something to provide a thin veneer of legality to all the 3rd world dictators attempts to control the net. Not that they won’t do that anyway, they just wanted it to be “legal”. So they will ratify this treaty.
“What is clear from the ITU meeting in Dubai is that many governments want to increase regulation and censorship of the Internet,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “We stand with the countries who refuse to sign this treaty and also with the millions of voices who have joined us to support a free and open Web.”
Apparently they fear an Obama loss:
President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has devoted an unprecedented number of bureaucrats to finalizing new anti-coal regulations that are set to be released at the end of November, according to a source inside the EPA.
More than 50 EPA staff are now crashing to finish greenhouse gas emission standards that would essentially ban all construction of new coal-fired power plants. Never before have so many EPA resources been devoted to a single regulation. The independent and non-partisan Manhattan Institute estimates that the EPA’s greenhouse gas coal regulation will cost the U.S. economy $700 billion.
More of that laser like focus on creating or saving jobs, huh?
One more in a veritable litany of reasons to get rid of this guy tomorrow.
Gallup has a poll out saying fewer and fewer Americans want more regulation of US businesses. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, given the current economic situation (I say that because it’s anyone’s guess how the population would feel if we were going great guns economically):
Americans say there is too much (47%) rather than too little (26%) government regulation of business and industry, with 24% saying the amount of regulation is about right. Americans have been most likely to say there is too much regulation of business over the last several years, but prior to 2006, Americans’ views on the issue of government regulation of business were more mixed.
Here’s what I found fascinating about this particular poll:
The collapse of Lehman Bros., the failure of the secondary mortgage market, and other business problems in 2008 and 2009 might have been expected to increase Americans’ desire for more government control of business and industry. But that was not the case. Americans’ views that there is too much government regulation in fact began to rise in 2009, perhaps in response to the new Obama administration and new business regulation policies such as Dodd-Frank, reaching an all-time high of 50% in 2011 before settling down slightly this year to 47%.
Now it is well disguised in there, but the bottom line is that Gallup is saying that the American public didn’t buy into the notion that the financial collapse was all the fault of “Big Money” or “Big Business”, despite the administration and politician’s best efforts to spin it that way. There’s obviously some fault to be found on the private side, but it appears the public also puts a lot of it on government and government policy. That’s encouraging.
Of course the unsurprising aspect of this poll was the breakdown of who didn’t think there was too much regulation of US businesses and, in fact, thought there ought to be more:
Another, in a long line of reasons I find the Democrats to be much more dangerous to our future freedom (at least at the moment) than the GOP.
From Professor Luigi Zingales:
“There is not a well-understood distinction between being pro-business and being pro-market. Businessmen like free markets until they get into a market; once they are in it they want to block entry to others. Pro-marketeers want free markets at all times. The more conservative pro-marketeers are fearful of criticising business, because they assume they will be seen as criticising the free market. But we need to stand up and criticise business when business is not helping the cause of free markets.”
We talk a lot about crony capitalism. Well what the good professor is talking about when he says that businessmen like free markets until they get in one and then they try to “block entry to others” is part of what we’re talking about.
One aspect of cronyism is where businesses attempt to use the power of government, if they can so influence it, to give their company sweetheart regulations, raise artificial barriers to entry and to otherwise impede competitors to the point that they have an advantage. I’d like to say advantage in the “market”, but the market, at that point, no longer exists as a free one. It is now a distorted market due to government cronyism.
That’s something that badly needs to stop. Whether at this point that’s even possible and if it is, how we’d actually go about it are some interesting questions to discuss.
However, the primary point is being pro-business does not necessarily being pro-market and it certainly doesn’t mean you are necessarily for free markets.
We need to change the way we discuss this. We nee to talk about free markets and roundly condemn any business that attempts to use the coercive power of government to it’s advantage in markets as well as condemning those in government who use its power for such things.
Pete DuPont does a little analysis of what should be major issues in the upcoming election. They don’t bode well for the current administration if, in fact, Republicans can get the media to actually pay attention and address them:
• Taxes. Big tax hikes coming in January will serve as dampers on economic growth.ObamaCare imposes a new 3.8% tax on investment income. On top of that, if the Bush tax [rates] aren’t extended, the top income tax rates will rise to 23.8% from 15% on capital gains and to 43.4% from 15% on dividends.
But beyond the economic impact, the Obama administration’s focus on class warfare fuels the nation’s dissatisfaction and plays on an unwise resentment towards successful businesspeople. Mr. Obama continues to push for higher taxes and does so in a way that is an attack on those who are successful–demanding that higher-income taxpayers pay their "fair share," when they already pay more than that.
The economic impact shouldn’t be waved off. When and if both capital gains and dividend incomes are taxed at a higher rate, they will effect both investment and retirement incomes. Don’t forget those” rich folks” whose retirement income is structured to depend on dividends from blue chip stocks they’ve methodically bought in small quantities over their working years. It obviously doesn’t matter that their incomes really don’t reach the “rich” threshold that the Democrats want you to envy, their retirement incomes will take an almost 200% tax increase hit regardless if the current rates aren’t extended. Apparently to collect less than a trillion dollars over 10 years taxing the “rich” (so they’ll pay their “fair share”) vs. spending $46 trillion Democrats are happy to sacrifice those folks.
As for investments, there’ll be a recalculation given the increase on capital gains and it will dampen investments, thus business expansion and finally job growth.
• Energy. The American people hear Mr. Obama talk about a broad energy strategy, but they see an administration that has attacked the coal industry with onerous regulations, done little or nothing to assist the natural gas boom, done what it can to slow down oil production, and wasted money on other initiatives that please green supporters but don’t lower the cost of energy.
This administration’s energy policy is a joke, but unfortunately it’s a very expensive joke. Its priorities are completely backward, but purposefully so. To call what they are doing a “policy” is simply absurd. This is agenda fulfillment with the people’s money on pie-in-the-sky projects that have yet to yield (nor do they even promise to yield) the energy required to make them viable. Meanwhile they’ve done everything humanly possible to retard the fossil fuel industry’s growth at a critical time for our economy. On the issue of energy, this administration gets an F-.
• Health care. Although ObamaCare remains unpopular, the Supreme Court ruling upholding it means that a 17% transfer of our economy from the marketplace to the control of the federal government is coming unless Congress and a President Romney can stop it. At a time when our nation needs lower taxes and more flexibility in health-care decisions, ObamaCare has increased taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars and allowed government to regulate most of our health care decisions.
The secretary of health and human services can now set rules that constrain doctors and hospitals and mandate prices. Mr. Obama once promised us all that if you were happy with your current health plan, you’d be able to keep it. The more we learn about ObamaCare, the unlikelier that looks–and the more the government will intrude in the relationship between doctor and patient.
Despite the disapproval of a majority of Americans, Democrats and this President rammed the legislation through anyway. That should tell most Americans what they really think of their opinion. It is a classic “we know what’s best for you” elitist move.
The second paragraph gives a hint though to the powers this legislation has given an unaccountable government bureaucrat. The Secretary of HHS now has tremendous power to make unilateral decisions that will effect everyone’s health care. Of course, that’s been discussed by some on the right, but for the most part the level of intrusion these powers will confer won’t really begin to be felt until, conveniently, after the election.
• Spending. Federal expenditures under Mr. Obama is both unparalleled and unsustainable. As National Review’s Jonah Goldberg notes, from the end of World War II until the end of the George W. Bush administration, federal spending never exceeded 23.5% of GDP, and the Bush years’ average was around 20%. The Obama spending rates have stayed above 23.5% in every year of his presidency. In the past four years, America has added $5 trillion in federal debt, and around $4 trillion of that was from Obama policies, according to The Wall Street Journal. Federal debt held by the public was 40.5% of gross domestic product in 2008. It’s now 74.2% and rising.
Despite the attempts by Democrats using fudged numbers and trying to spin it so Bush gets the blame, the spending by this administration is, as DuPont points out, “both unparalleled and unsustainable”. And, don’t forget, the President hasn’t signed a budget in over 1,000 days because the Democratic Senate has refused to pass one, despite the Constitutional requirement it do so.
Those are the things we ought to be talking about. Not whether or not Romney pissed off the Palestinians (who doesn’t piss off the Palestinians when they take a principled stand on Israel? How is this even news?).
These are where Obama’s skeleton’s are to be found. He’d prefer to keep this closet door firmly closed. The media, for the most part, seems content to help in that endeavor.
This election isn’t about anything but his administration’s abysmal record. Spending time talking anything else is simply a distraction. Unfortunately, given its unprecedented level of economic intrusion, we’re going to live or die economically with the policies that government applies. Talking about whether a candidate may or may not have insulted the London Olympics isn’t going to change that fact one iota. But it sure does distract from examining the previous administration’s record, doesn’t it?
Did most of you know about this?
The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) June energy report says that energy-related carbon dioxide fell to 5,473 million metric tons (MMT) in 2011.
That’s down from a high of 6,020 MMT in 2007, and only a little above 1995′s level of 5,314 MMT.
Better yet, emissions in the first quarter of 2012 fell at an even faster rate — down 7.5% from the first quarter of 2011 and 8.5% from the same time in 2010. If the rest of 2012 follows its first-quarter trend, we may see total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions drop to early-1990s levels.
Wow. Victory for the enviro crowd, yes? Regulation has succeeded, right? The government has turned the tide?
Nope. In fact it has nothing to do with the enviro crowd, government or regulation.
Two dirty words: Hydraulic fracking. Two more for good measure: Natural gas. And the dirtiest word of all: Markets.
Those three have combined, via a price point that has stimulated demand and made the conversion of coal plants economical to drive down emissions as they produce electricity more cheaply and efficiently. This trend began in 2007 and is now having a real effect:
Increasingly, power plants are turning to natural gas because it has become abundant, and therefore cheap. And though technology is improving our ability to reduce emissions from coal usage, natural gas is still a much cleaner source.
Natural gas, given the extensive finds and the exploitation, is much cheaper than coal now. In fact:
Indeed, natural gas has just passed an important milestone. As noted by John Hanger, energy expert and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: "As of April, gas tied coal at 32% of the electric power generation market, nearly ending coal’s 100-year reign on top of electricity markets."
That’s how it works in markets, or is supposed too. The fact that emissions are down is an actual side benefit of the process. And it is a process that has managed to work despite government and environmental groups like the Sierra Club’s interference or attempted interference in the process (the Sierra Club has declared war on natural gas and fracking after accepting millions in previous years from the natural gas industry).
It is a part of the creative destruction of the capitalist process. Coal will still have its uses, but just as it was replaced as a primary fuel for heating homes last century, it is now being replaced as a primary fuel for generating electricity for the same reason – there is a cheaper and more efficient fuel (which also happens to have fewer emissions) that is easier to produce and deliver than coal.
At some point coal producers will either have to reinvent themselves or find something else to do. And on the other side, opportunities will expand within the natural gas industry as more and more demand builds.
But shhhhh. Don’t want anyone knowing this all happened because of markets. Why that would hurt the argument that it requires government intrusion, regulation and the pressure of environmental groups to make things like this happen.
Can’t have that.
And, of course, I say that facetiously. As it stands now, it has fostered more government regulation, more bureaucrats and more intrusion in epic proportion:
"There’s already 13,000 pages of regulations, and they’re not even done yet," Rehberg said.
"It’s a delegation of extensive authority from Congress to the Department of Health and Human Services and a lot of boards and commissions and bureaus throughout the bureaucracy," Matt Spalding of the Heritage Foundation said. "We counted about 180 or so."
So, minimally (we all know they’re not nearly done) 13,000 new pages of regulation, 180+ boards, commissions and bureaus and, of course, scads of bureaucrats to fill them.
Then there are the new broad powers granted HHS and the IRS.
Yes, friends, that’s right, this is how you make health care less expensive and better, not to mention making government less intrusive.
Probably the funniest thing, in a sad and ironic way, is the fact that there are still millions of people out there who believe the propaganda that sold this crap sandwich to the public. Someone among them I’m sure will someday be able to explain how adding costly regulations and layers upon layers of bureaucracy somehow helps reduce the cost of health care delivery.
According to James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, federal powers will include designing insurance plans, telling people where they can go for coverage and how much insurers are allowed to charge.
"Really, how doctors and hospitals are supposed to practice medicine," he said.
Wait, wasn’t one of the primary problems with the old system, per the Democrats, a problem of insurance companies telling doctors how to practice medicine?
See, solved by government, right?
In fact, one master has been replaced by another one, the newest master being the most inept, inefficient and corrupt of the two. And, of course, no one has yet explained how all of this is going to ensure people have better access to a doctor. Why? Because, quite simply, having insurance doesn’t guarantee care. And with the disincentives provided by massive increases in regulation (and the increase that will cost for compliance) and oversight via these board, commissions and bureaus, my guess is there will be fewer doctors in the future.
So prepare to enjoy the dawning of the age of ObamaCare and the attendant disappointment, shock and anger it will eventually engender among the public. There are some things that one shouldn’t mess with, and people’s health care is one of them.