Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Moral Peril of Over-Regulation

There's deep anti-regulation sentiment in my presidential platform. I understand that when liberals hear about anti-regulation, they imagine unrestrained plumes of black smoke, rivers full of raw sewage and children crushing rocks with hammers. But there's plenty of room for sane, ethical opposition to overregulation. Governments create thickets of inefficiency - self-defeating, business-thwarting, unintended-consequence-blind doofiness, often arising from good intentions.

Here's an example. I incorporated to produce the Big Secret Project I've been working on. For various reasons, one worker needs to be an employee, not a contractor. And while his job is performed in the comfort and safety of his home office, I need to buy him workman's compensation insurance and disability insurance. It's expensive, plus I needed to take a day off to fill out paperwork (and have him fill out paperwork), speak to insurance agents, and produce various forms and proofs. All for nothing. He's not going to hurt himself doing graphic design on his computer!

To be sure, workman's compensation is a very positive thing. It's done a lot of good. But regulations are comically broad brushes, and in my case it's causing needless expense and paperwork, slowing the development of a product that may generate lots of sales tax and corporate tax, and raising a barrier to the sort of entrepreneurship keeping our country on top in spite of the loss of our industrial base.

A friend chortled when I told him the story. "Maybe I should have shot him a cash payment off the books, but I was trying to be legit," I explained. "'Legit', he replied, "is for suckers."

He's no corrupt cigar-chomping plutocrat. Just someone who's been through this sort of thing ad infinitum. He's been made to think this way. Over-regulation creates moral peril!


Seth Godin said...

It's only over-regulation in the eye of the beholder.

I'm glad you agree that SOME jobs need worker's comp. Now, of course, the question is who should decide which jobs shouldn't contribute to lower the cost for everyone. What if you ask him to run an errand and he slips on the ice and breaks his arm?

This of course, is the best argument for national health insurance, since the costs of administering specialized systems fall on folks like you disproportionately.

Fortunately for free-market fans, companies like Tri-net have arisen. They will happily trade money for time, handle all the paperwork, all the hassle and you can get back to work.

Free-rider problems are as real as special-case complaints about the difficulties of bureaucracy. The answer, though, isn't to let bureaucratic hassle persuade us that we should be free-riders and that the safety net is a bad idea (don't know what you've got till it's gone).

What we ought to do is agree that the richest nation in the history of the world can probably afford a safety net that's well administered, universally. And then use our smarts to do it quickly, easily and well.

Hard to do that when we're spending a lot of time arguing about whether or not it should even exist.

Jim Leff said...

Well, that's a lot of points, some of which I agree with, but none of which are related to the point I was making: regulation always paints with a comically broad brush. That's the problem with regulation. I'm not against regulation - not a right wing crazy. Don't want to remove all regulation or dismantle all safety nets (here's how I outgrew that: But the inefficiency and waste and insanity of piling on more and more regulation on top of kludgey previous regulation is a huge problem.

If he slips and falls on the ice and breaks his arm, and he wasn't insured, he'd be treated free by the emergency room. But he happens to be self-insured (as am I), so no sweat. And, in any case, I favor single payer ( Since this is not 1955 and I'm not a mogul offering old-school cradle-to-grave employment to phalanxes of employees, I feel little paternal responsibility, and this employee feels likewise. I was a freelance musician/writer for 35 years, and it never would possibly have occurred to me to hold an employer responsible for my slipping on ice en route to a gig. Times have changed. But to repeat again (since tempers flair on this stuff), I do favor universal health insurance to remove the issue utterly from a "who's responsible" debate. The COUNTRY is responsible, and I'm okay with that - and with any resulting tax hike.

Blog Archive