May 162019

Three Stooges

Early in his administration, U.S. president Donald Trump proposed that each new regulation created by law should be matched by the elimination of two previously existing regulations. While this represents a positive move in the right direction, it barely addresses the tip of the iceberg with regard to all the unnecessary and counterproductive regulations that need to be eliminated.

No matter how well intentioned a given law may be, the regulations created to administer that law more frequently than not turn into the proverbial ‘devil in the details,’ reaching a point where the consequences of the regulation are often worse than the problem originally thought solved.

Even when regulations reach a point where their consequences are contrary to the intended purpose of the original law on which they were based, there is little recourse available to those harmed by the regulation, since no one can be held effectively accountable. One cannot reason or argue with administrators or bureaucrats when, ironically, they merely cite legislation as their justification for doing almost anything that they interpret as falling within the purview of their authority.

Under the principle of the ‘Rule of Law,’ politicians and citizen representatives can be held accountable for the consequences. Under ‘Rule by Regulation,’ there is little such accountability.

Despite the dangers of over-regulation, there is certainly a case to be made for necessary and rational regulation. The issue can get complicated when it becomes difficult to distinguish a ‘regulation’ from a ‘law’ or a ‘rule’ or even from ‘governance’ itself. Regulations created to administer specific laws should be strictly limited and consistently reviewed, and perhaps subject to ‘sunset’ clauses.

Unless regulations devised to administer certain laws are Just Right to suit the law, the Rule of Law will become largely replaced by the Rule of Regulation – and that’s a formula for tyranny.

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