Sunday, March 13, 2011

Government regulations

A common Republican trope is that business is being stifled by government regulations, and that regulations should be done away with. (e.g. John McCain: "I am fundamentally a deregulator.")

The rhetoric is that of an intrusive government managing (or mismanaging) our lives.  And who among us doesn't dislike the feeling that we are being regulated by outside forces?  There is also the claim that regulation hampers the growth of the economy, and contributes to our current unemployment woes.  So the Republican rhetoric strikes a sympathetic chord with the public.

But consider: government regulations are not an end in themselves - they are a means to an end.  And that end is our protection: protection from dirty air, polluted water, unsafe working conditions, unsafe living conditions, dangerous gambles by reckless bankers, and so on and so on. Yes, there is a legitimate discussion to be had on how much protection the public needs government to be affording us (the nanny state and all that), but let's at least have that discussion in terms of the issue, not just the mechanism.

So the proper counter to the anti-regulatory rhetoric is to reframe the discourse by using the term protection.  When Republicans call for removal of regulations, the Democrats' reply should be that the Republicans want to remove protections, and give examples of protections that are enforced by regulation, like those I mentioned above.  Instead, the Democrats in their customary wussy way are replying on the Republicans' terms - trying to defend regulation, instead of pointing out that regulations are just the mechanism and insisting on using the term protection every time a Republican talks about regulation.  Indeed, the Democrats should be setting the agenda themselves, accusing Republicans of wanting to remove protections, and reminding the public of the protections we now enjoy as a result of those denigrated "regulations."

No comments:

Post a Comment