The danger of the administrative state

Feb 28, 2021

I think it is important to understand that “not all regulations are created equal.”

Some regulations have come about because selfish and powerful players have abused many people, many banded together to have their voices heard, and a regulation is the result.  I’m not going to pretend that the regulations that have resulted have not also had unintended adverse consequences, but it must be understood that simply clearing such regulations aside leaves us with the problem that created the regulation in the first place.  (Think: Glass-Steagal.”)

However, increasingly in a political arena that is dominated by whoever receives the most money in campaign donations and support from super PACs, regulations are made to benefit powerful individuals or groups who made campaign contributions.  The federal government is the government body farthest from the people, and the least able to be actively responsive to the needs of the people, and yet we have tasked it with the bulk of the tax revenues, regulation-making, and provider of funds to the poor, disabled, and retired.  Increasingly, public school revenue also comes from the federal government.  Funding always comes with strings attached, and when the funder is far removed from the recipients, the “strings” tend to be mis-matched to the recipients’ actual situation — recipients will start to pattern their lives to match with the program requirements, rather than make decisions that best fit their life situation or individual capabilities.

These problems are real.  But they don’t come about simply because “regulations=bad.”  These are systemic issues.  The systemic issues will simply manifest in alternative ways if the regulations are wiped away.  The regulations were put in place to “fix” a broken system or to “rig” the system.  Those who engineered the rigging will still have enormous power should their regulatory rigging be swept away, and will simply find innovative ways to attain the same purpose — to maintain and increase their wealth and power.

I am frustrated by all who think that if we just “end the Fed,” or “vote out Trump, vote in Biden,” or vote in Trump, or get *my* party in control of Congress and the office of the president, or move to all electric cars, or stop eating meat, or can own/open carry any weapons we wish, or ridded ourselves of most regulations…THEN we could return to some idyllic situation….  Never realizing that the system is the problem, and tinkering here or there won’t fix it.

Small business owners in a small community will often (but not always) steer their businesses in ways that promote the general well-being of the community, even when it causes them to have smaller profits.  This is because they are invested in the community, they see their neighbors as peers, their clients as peers — some even see their employees as peers.  As humans, we are generally hard wired (to some degree or another) to behave cooperatively with those we see as a part of our communities, those who are not “other.”  If we want to improve our human societies, we need to have systems that build upon the pro-social elements of our psyches.  If we have systems that emphasize the value of cooperation, and see competition as a fun exercise among friends (let’s see who can run the fastest, who can solve this problem the best way, etc.) rather than a life or death struggle for survival, we may find that most regulations can be relegated to the dust bin, because we have something better to replace them.

Hence my interest in worker self-directed enterprises — because groups of people learning how to work cooperatively together for their own well-being, without needing top-down control or direction has potential to birth us a system that actually gives us liberty.  Of course, there will be stumbles along the way, but I suspect that cooperating with others is a collection of skills that can be learned.

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