By Donald Rieck
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In Steven Pearlstein Washington Post piece Is Capitalism Moral? www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-capitalism-moral/2013/03/15/a9ed66d4-868b-11e2-999e-5f8e0410cb9d_story.html he makes this rather bald, and stunning, statement: “Here at home, large swaths of the economy have been deregulated”.
Really? Perhaps I should buy the soon-to-be-Professor (of Political and International Affairs, at George Mason) Pearlstein a copy of “CEI’s “Ten Thousand Commandments: Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.”
Oh I forgot, it’s free here: cei.org/studies/ten-thousand-commandments-2012
Some of the highlight, or rather lowlights:
- Estimated regulatory costs, while “off budget,” are equivalent to over 48% the level of federal spending itself.
- The 2011 Federal Register finished at 81,247 pages, just shy of 2010’s all-time record-high 81,405 pages
- Regulatory compliance costs dwarf corporate income taxes of $198 billion, and exceed individual income taxes and even pre-tax corporate profits.
- Agencies issued 3,807 final rules in 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over 3,573 in 2010.
- Of the 4,128 regulations in the works at year-end 2011, 212 were “economically significant,” meaning they generally wield at least $100 million in economic impact.
- 822 of those 4,128 regulations in the works would affect small businesses.
I was thinking about that last bullet when I was reading Jay Nordlinger’s Impromptus on NRO. He was previewing an article he has in the upcoming National Review Magazine edition: “An Entrepreneurial Life: Pictures from struggling, wonderful California.”
He writes about the crushing dead weight of regulatory burden, quoting an almond farmer journey from immigrant penury to prosperous producer, exporting to over sixty countries. Yes, because of the global market, business has never been better, but they are constantly hamstrung by regulations that are “excessive, and costly, and perverse”:
His daughter Jeannine shares with me
two pieces of paper. On them are all the regulatory agencies and offices that Campos Brothers has to respond to. I count 72. And the thing is, Jeannine tells me, these people sometimes make flatly contradictory demands.
The Social Security Administration says, “If you do X, you will be criminally liable.” The Department of Homeland Security says, “If you don’t do X, you will be criminally liable.” So what the hell do you do?
Wrap your mind around a regulation in the pipeline — a regulation that is apparently coming: A kit fox wanders into your almond orchard and takes a dump next to a tree. You have to quarantine off a sizable area around the tree. You have to “cleanse” it, destroying all the trees within.
Well, why not keep Mr. Fox out in the first place? You can’t — he’s on the endangered-species list.
I am sure that there are examples of industry deregulation (for better or for worse) that can be trotted out. I am certain that the Campos Brothers experience is far more representative of reality that Pearlstein bald assertion.