“Never look a gift house in the mouth” – Yogi Bear
President Obama was on the campaign trail a few weeks back and has taken some preemptive action against what is sure to be a Republican talking point in the upcoming election – excessive government regulation. His move had been a politically deft one, though perhaps he has played his hand a bit too soon.
The game is simple. When pressed on excessive government regulation, respond with “can you name for me a specific regulation that you’re concerned about?” Most people can come to grips with a general notion that these regulations rarely (never?) introduce market efficiency. As a consequence, the regulations don’t improve the economy (and that is likely not their intent anyway). But they may not be able to pull together an exact regulation and unravel its particular negative consequences. Furthermore, the negative consequences of regulations may take years or decades to fully materialize. Your average town hall meeting-goer probably won’t call you on this.
Beyond this, most regulation can be made to sound good if given the right, heart-felt liberal tone. “Are you saying we shouldn’t outlaw kicking puppies?”
(I say he played his hand a bit early because there is still plenty of time for the Tea Party and blogosphere to circulate talking points.)
As a simple example, consider the national ratings cartel (see “Curse You Standard & Poor’s!!!!”). The regulation that set up the ratings subprime crisis came about back in 1975. Who could have seen all the repercussions? And had someone protested at the time, surely the response would have been “what, are you saying that companies shouldn’t have their debt rated by a nationally recognized agency before selling it on the open market?” See how that works?
Here’s another one for you. One Jeremy Hill has been charged in Idaho with unlawfully shooting a grizzly bear. He wasn’t out hunting, mind you – he was at home. Apparently three grizzlies came onto his property, chasing some pigs that his kids were raising. Feeling that his children and family were in danger, he shot and killed one of the bears and the other two fled.
The grizzly has some amazing rights. If a person had come onto his property and threatened his family this wouldn’t be an issue. Heck, if a foreign diplomat, with full diplomatic immunity, had come onto his property threatening his family, he could have killed them with impunity. The grizzly has more rights though.
You may say “well, we have to let the justice system work” – but some prosecutor somewhere feels that there is enough evidence to go to trial. This man is in danger of losing his freedom over defending his family.
You may say “well, we need to consider these things on a case-by-case basis” – I disagree. The law has to be the law. If we are all to be held to account for the laws of the land, then they must be clear and unambiguous. A man can’t debate within himself whether or not an act of self-defense will be viewed as such by a “case-by-case” court of law.
It’s just difficult to regulate that people do “the right thing” and make the same sound judgments that our bureaucrats would.
The grizzly bear incident does remind me of a joke though. A preacher is out hiking in the mountains when he comes across a hungry grizzly. He takes off running but there’s no hope, grizzlies are fast. So, he throws up a prayer – “Lord, please make this bear a Christian.” And the Lord answered. The bear knocked the preacher to the ground and knelt down – “dear Lord, thank you for this meal I’m about to receive.”