Third Party & Independents Archives

Policy Wonking Your Way to Freedom

July 6 was Cost of Government Day or CGD according to Americans For Tax Reform’s Cost of Government Center. It measures deficit spending as a percentage of GDP rather than as a percentage of Gross National Income. It also adds in the cost of regulatory compliance which results in an added two months of GDP being devoured by government. The problem is, when it comes to regulatory compliance, it is more than just government that is doing the devouring. Regulations have to be interpreted by the courts and that means more than just judges and court staff, it means lawyers, usually lots of them. Any corporation of any size nowadays has to hire expensive legal help to ensure they are compliant with any new or existing regulation pertaining to their business. The lawyers might even help them convince a judge or a bureaucrat to modify the rules that regulate their line of work and enable the corporations to end up saving some money in the long run. That is a risky and uncertain outcome in many situations and depends on how the courts find on any challenge to any regulation on the books. What is less risky is the fact that the legal help will be well compensated.

A company today cannot, nay should not, skimp on lawyers that deal with important regulatory matters. While this brushes up against tort reform, it is not a subset. It is its own particular world that has been growing bigger and bigger for a while; arguably since the Massachusetts Factory Act of 1877. One can argue over how factory conditions would have changed in the absence of state and federal regulation but that is a theoretical that depends on one's optimism on how rational humans can be. What is hardly debatable is the fact that regulation in the 21st century is its own industry. When it comes to regulation, you are an insider versed in policy-speak and cost-benefit analysis, or you are an outsider who wants to know how much any change is going to cost in terms of the dollars in your wallet and in your bank account. The regulation industry is not just governmental, it is everywhere in private industry dressed up as policy: as in the policies of your HMO, or the compliance policies at an investment bank, or the hiring policies at a chain of organic food stores, or Facebook's policy on adding contacts ... etc. At what point does policy become burdensome regulation? The answer must lie with how much choice it offers. Can you opt out? Are there other options? Are you obliged to comply?? What is distressing is that some private companies have policies as rigid as the most detailed and finicky set of EPA or Dept. of Labor regulations you could imagine. Did Washington force them to do it? Or have they got religion? As in policy religion. In order to effectively fight for your freedoms nowadays, it seems you have to be an expert .... on policy. Happy CGD.

Posted by AllardK at July 11, 2014 7:26 PM
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Oftentimes, the absence of regulations costs much more than the regulations themselves.

Posted by: Warren Porter at July 13, 2014 3:18 AM
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