Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Regulation - An Often Meaningless Panacea

Yesterday's supreme court decision regarding the personal applicability of the 2nd amendment has gun control advocates "up in arms", so to speak. They seem to like the status quo in places like Chicago where the city is swimming in handguns but only the criminals have them. I'm no fan of handguns, but I can understand the decision; if one wants to defend him/herself against a criminal, one's got to have a weapon. "Regulation" to the point of banning something has turned out to be a total farce in this instance. That brings me to highlight a few other regulatory fantasies.

Marijuana cultivation and sale is against federal law, but it's the highest grossing agricultural product in our country and some states have even partially ("medically") legalized it.

Coal mines and oil drilling platforms are regularly inspected, but recent events have proved that many operators have figured out the system and how to get around it or ignore it.

The SEC and and the accounting profession have a myriad of regulations covering financial reporting, but some big companies and investment firms have "cooked their books" with impunity for years before being caught (or not).

Many states have laws banning cell phone and texting usage while driving, but one out of four drivers in my town, where it's illegal, seem to be on the devices almost all the time.

And yes, it's illegal to enter the United States without some form of official approval. Somehow, at least 12 million humans ( four in every 100 U.S. residents) are here without approval of any kind.

I'm sure you have plenty of personal examples of regulations that seem to have little or no effect on conduct. That's the problem with regulation - without effective enforcement, they are meaningless or even detrimental. People assumed, for example, that Bernard Madoff's operations had been scrutinized by the SEC, much to their impoverishment.

In my view, government entities that make regulations should be required (by a regulation) to make a convincing case that the regulation will be enforced generally. That is, that adequate resources have been assigned to ensure the regulation will be followed by the great majority of those affected by it. If the regulation does not pass this test, it should be put on hold until such time as the case can be made.

Most of us learned, early in life, that parental instructions are to be followed only if we wish to, or if we are likely to be caught violating them. And, if the punishment for violators is minimal, forget #2. These are laws of nature. Why, then, do we let our governments spend their time making laws that they know are either unenforceable or will not be enforced? It's time to regulate the regulators!

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