Regulations have long been a soft and favourite target of conservatives around the world. Much of the criticism is warranted, as regulations can often be superfluous and slow to adapt. However recent statements by Republican presidential candidates have increased the level of irrationality behind this understandable position. The problem with their stance is that while some regulations are in need of axing or reform, regulations as a whole are definitely a required protection for all stakeholders. Furthermore, history shows that deregulation and under regulation have often created major problems, such as the recent Global Financial Crisis.
The 2012 presidential race opened the floodgates of anti regulation craziness. Frontrunners in the Republican field have essentially been obligated to add to the rhetoric; Governor Rick Perry has called for a moratorium on all regulations in the US, and has labelled them “job killers”; Michelle Bachmann has called for the “mother of all repeal bills” to wipe out much of the powers of the EPA (also labelled it a job killer); and Mitt Romney is pushing for repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, stating that despite his belief that consumers require protection, he also believes the financial services sector is over-regulated. Furthermore, this recent spate of intense demonization of regulations builds upon a massive base of criticism generated by Republican Congressmen and conservative media. For example House Speaker John Boehner recently criticised the FCC for implementing net neutrality regulations (and denied funding to the FCC to implement the new regulations) and over the past 2 years Fox News has led a truly head scratching campaign against new light bulb regulations.
However, just as most people are secret socialists, we are all secretly love regulation. There are many reasons regulations are required. As shown by the Global Financial Crisis and recent labour strife, corporations do not always have their consumers and employees best interests at heart, and often do not even have their shareholders best interest at heart. Recent outbreaks in Europe and America show that diseases and viruses abound between humans, animals and plants, and therefore food and pharmacological regulation are vital. Furthermore we owe future generations a healthy environment and not just a lack of debt, and without the “job killing” EPA, how would this be possible? Finally, all humans deserve a basic level of healthcare, and while there are many problems with the Affordable Healthcare Act (“Obamacare”), the only evidence of its “job killing” nature are anecdotal.
As I write this, Obama has just announced a complete overhaul of regulation in America. While this may make this post irrelevant, recent political hypocrisy tells me that the irrational hatred of all regulations will continue to thrive. While anti regulation dogma makes perfect sound bite material, voters need to wake up and realise the benefits that some regulations provide. The fact is that corporations are entirely focused on profit, and the pollution and treatment of workers in countries like China and India are perfect examples of what happens in deregulated environments (remember the Beijing Olympics?). China and India provide other examples of the benefits of regulation, for example the worldwide outcry when lead and melamine were found in milk imported into the US (found and stopped thanks to who?). Furthermore, we need to stop the shortsighted attacks on environmental regulations. While they undoubtedly do get in the way of economic advancement, we owe the future generations more than a good economy set in a desolate environment. We owe ourselves an environment where useful regulations are lauded and bad regulations are genuinely criticised, instead of them being lumped together for purely political purposes.