Why the Land of the Free Became ‘Regulation Nation’

Most of us take it for granted that “government regulation” is a necessary thing. Kind of like oxygen. Or running water. A lot of us assume that without “government regulation” most of us would be living in a third-world country.

Yet what kind of government regulations do we have? Here are just a few examples, from an excellent article entitled “Regulation Nation”:

Do you own a car? Every year, you must go down to the DMV and pay the government for permission to drive it.

Do you own a business? You must register it and pay an annual fee to operate it.

Do you want to renovate your home? You must pay the government to come and tell you if you’re allowed to, how you are allowed to, and to check it afterward to make sure you complied with all of their rules.

Do you want to swap your homemade goodies for someone else’s homemade goodies? You’re supposed to get permission from the government to do it, and they’d also like you to pay them taxes on the transaction.

Do you want to educate your children at home? In some states, you have to pay for permission to do that. You still have to pay taxes to support your local school, mind you, but you’ll need a “permit” on top of it.

Do you want to hunt or fish to supplement your food budget? You’re supposed to go get a license to do that, too.

Do you want to go off the grid? If you’re even allowed to, you’ll have to get a permit and an inspection.

What’s the common theme uniting all of these examples, and hundreds of thousands more? That you need the government’s permission to do something. Existing is not a right; it’s a privilege.

It’s not what the Declaration of Independence promised. It’s not what the U.S. Constitution proposed, either.

Permission is not an invalid concept in the right context. People require your permission to enter your home. (That includes the government, at least according to our original Constitution and Bill of Rights.) You require others’ permission to enter their property. There’s such a thing as private property, and the person who owns that property is entitled to use or dispose of it at his or her own discretion. Governments are necessary to enforce these boundaries.

But our own lives and property do not belong to the government. The moment citizens of the United States began to concede that maybe our lives and property do belong to the government was the moment we stopped being a fully free country. It happened a number of generations ago, and it’s getting worse.

Regulations are a symptom as well as a cause of problems. As with any disease, you will never eradicate the illness of regulation until you identify and eradicate the underlying cause. The underlying cause is the false belief that we, as individuals, are not sovereign over our lives.

Government officials rationalize that regulations are for our own good. They must regulate our home renovations, our homemade pastries or snacks, what goes into our children’s minds and brains, how much water we may use, how much energy we may consume, on and on and on. If we don’t let them do this for us, we’re told we will die. That’s the psychological basis for all this regulation: Fear.

An intrusive, regulating government needs a population riddled with fear. Confident and rational people would never tolerate someone else in a bureaucratic office in Washington DC running their lives for them. They recognize that it’s a self-refuting absurdity. If most people are idiotic morons requiring authorities to micromanage every last detail of their lives, then what does that make the authorities? Aren’t they members of the same moronic, idiotic human race as the rest of us, all of whom must be managed and regulated by them? And if they’re somehow superior or different, what makes them that way?

Donald Trump promises to end two regulations for every new one created. His heart is in the right place. But it’s regulation itself we have to question. While it’s proper and necessary to hold companies and businesses legally responsible for the quality of products they sell, for the most part this can be done through the marketplace. And where necessary, contracts can be upheld, lawsuits can be brought and even criminal charges can be advanced where there’s evidence of guilt.

But regulation is not the same as accountability for companies, something a free market system and a Constitutional republic (with state and local governments) already provides. Regulation is a fear-based mechanism of social control in which we empower the least morally and intellectually qualified to do what the vast majority of us could do far better for ourselves, even on our worst days.

Regulation is largely an illusion. We think unseen authorities are somehow magically protecting us, but they rarely if ever do. Government authorities are not accountable for what they do. They don’t live with the consequences of their edicts. Most of them only care about the power or their paycheck, rather than our own well-being.

The solution? We should learn how to take care of ourselves. We should credit ourselves with the fact that most of us already do, in spite of regulations rather than because of them. If we became more self-confident, far fewer of us would suffer from the crippling and sad disorder of anxiety that leads so many of us to cling to the false idea that regulations somehow make our lives better.

Regulations are for politicians and the people they employ. The sooner the rest of us come to grip with this fact, the better off we’ll be.

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