Why Regulations Stink

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Oftentimes, whenever a regulation is written, the consequences are unintended.

I classify regulation as different than law, even though they are the same thing. Regulations are “small laws”, or laws that are not written based on some obvious moral code. Regulations often don’t have punishments except for small fines or minor setbacks.

Laws, or the “big laws”, are based on obvious moral issues, such as murder, theft, rape, and such. Their punishments are severe, either with very heavy, punitive fines, imprisonment, or even death.

The problem with regulations is that they approach too close to the moral gray area, where it is not easy to see what is right and wrong.

Take, for instance, a rule that coaches cannot provide free housing to high school football players. Sounds reasonable, right?

“Of course!” you might say. “We don’t want coaches offering free things to high school players because we don’t want high school players to put football as a priority in their lives. It is more important to have them focus on school and life rather than on a career that might not promise much for them beyond high school.” I agree, at least to some degree.

But we have a case where it seems perfectly reasonable for a coach to provide free housing for a high school football player. Take a homeless kid off the streets, provide him a warm home and a loving family, and support that with the structure and rigor of football, and you have a recipe for turning someone’s life around, something I am sure everyone would support. A Florida football coach did just that—paying attention to his moral senses and doing what seems best for everyone involved. (link)

Of course, it was a violation of the Florida High School Athletic Association rules, all of which are “small laws” that carry minor penalties, the worst of which is disallowing teams to play in the league. In this case, only the coach and player in question are barred from playing.

These regulations were made by private entities. If the organization has a really inflexible and useless set of regulations, the coaches and teams are free to form their own competing organization with a different set of regulations. The organization exists to support the teams, not the other way around, so the organization is, right now, debating what sort of punishment, if any, is appropriate, and also considering whether it should change the regulation to better serve those who are homeless in our communities.

But let’s suppose it wasn’t a private organization that invented and protected these small rules. What happens when you give the power to regulate the minutiae of our lives to government, that organization which not only has the power to lawfully kill, but to do all sorts of other harmful things, that organization which is impossible to evade except you physically relocate yourself?

Well, we end up with an American economy in shambles. People who want to work aren’t allowed to work; people who want to hire can’t hire; people who want to invest can’t invest. Everyone is busy trying to steer clear of the latest set of regulations that they are paralyzed and incapable of making any good business decisions.

What keeps people unemployed and poor is not a bad economy. No, as long as people are capable and hungry, they will want to work, and as long as people are ambitious and have a little capital, they will want to hire someone to do work for them. The exact economic conditions are irrelevant, because these decisions are made among individuals.

What keeps people unemployed and poor, and what creates a bad economy, is a government that writes countless “small laws” and then punishes people who violate them with punishments normally reserved for violations of the obvious “big laws”. (Of course, taxes and spending don’t motivate people to do the right thing either.)

I would rather live in a world where people’s actions aren’t governed, for the most part, by government force and brutality. Yes, we need to keep murderers, rapists, thugs and thieves off the streets, and are arguably better off with their bodies six feet under or locked in cages.

When it comes to people who are simply trying to make a living and aren’t hurting anyone, however, we need to let people know they should only be limited by their imagination and inner moral compass.

If you are in an industry where you’d like to see a bunch of “small laws” to help grease the skids of commerce, then by all means, form a private entity, such as the Florida High School Athletic Association or the Underwriters Laboratory, write a bunch of small laws with small punishments, and allow people the freedom to choose whether they want to live under those laws or not. That is sufficient to help people make informed decisions and sufficient to regulate commerce when it needs regulating.

But let’s not turn over the power to regulate our lives to a government filled with ambitious parasites whose role in life seems to be to flaunt their power and influence.

I see the three-pronged tips of the trident that government uses to injure us as taxes, spending, and regulation. Oftentimes, people focus on taxes to the exclusion of the other prongs, but they are just as sharp and can destroy just as many, if not more, people’s lives.

If we choose, as a people, to live with less taxes, less government spending, and less regulations, and replace the monstrous trident with a dinner fork, we will find that prosperity was always available for us, and all we had to do was reach out and grab it.

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