Despite today’s polarized political atmosphere, it is possible to construct an ambitious and highly promising agenda of pro-growth policy reform that can command support across the ideological spectrum. Such an agenda would focus on policies whose primary effect is to inflate the incomes and wealth of the rich, the powerful, and the well-established by shielding them from market competition. A convenient label for these policies is “regressive regulation” — regulatory barriers to entry and competition that work to redistribute income and wealth up the socioeconomic scale. This paper identifies four major examples of regressive regulation: excessive monopoly privileges granted under copyright and patent law; restrictions on high-skilled immigration; protection of incumbent service providers under occupational licensing; and artificial scarcity created by land-use regulation.
[Charles Murray, author of the newly published By the People: Rebuilding Liberty without Permission] is quick to add that he is perfectly fine with a wide range of sensible regulations, and that only a narrow subset of regulations ought to be disobeyed, offering this rule of thumb: if the matter in question were to become a news story in the mass media, the vast majority of Americans would side with the rule-breaker. He offered the example of a bartender with whom he corresponded––she was fined $3,000 for failing to card a customer, and while he granted the legitimacy of requiring alcohol sellers to check the ages of customers, he felt it was unfair to fine the bartender in this particular situation as the customer was her father.
James Gattuso and Diane Katz at Heritage tote up some of the numbers on the Obama administration’s wave of regulation:
In its first six years, the Obama Administration imposed 184 major regulations on the private sector. That figure is more than twice the number imposed by the Bush Administration in its first six years….
Overall, the cost of new mandates and restrictions imposed by the Obama Administration now totals $78.9 billion annually. This is more than double the $30.7 billion in annual costs imposed at the same point in the George W. Bush Administration.
Much, much more is ahead, especially in areas like labor and employment, where the administration is pursuing a frankly unilateral course of legal changes that would never meet with approval if submitted as legislation to the present Congress.
- Ohio appeals court: code enforcement officers in town of Riverside can be personally liable for towing cars off man’s property without due process [The Newspaper; Vlcek v. Chodkowski, Second Appellate District, Montgomery County]
- “FDA’s proposed cigar crackdown could effectively ban up to 80% of stogies currently sold in US” [James Bovard, Washington Times; earlier here, here]
- Don’t decriminalize subway farebeating, says Nicole Gelinas, it’s a deliberate theft and a damaging one (though “enforcing the fare helps enforce New York gun laws” may not work as an argument unless you admire those gun laws) [New York Post]
- Lawyers take Fifth and (via their attorney) blame paralegal over DUI setup of a trial opponent [ABA Journal; Adams and Diaco, Florida]
- “The Questionable History of Regulatory Reform Since the APA” [Stuart Shapiro and Deanna Moran, Mercatus]
- Did American rebels of 1776 fight for English liberties, or universal Rights of Man? [David Boaz, Cato, taking issue with Daniel Hannan]
- “Appeals court scolds Apple monitor, but does not remove him” [Jeff John Roberts, Fortune; Eriq Gardner, THR; Colin Lecher, The Verge; earlier]
The crackdown on college grievance procedures by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) paved the way for such developments as the administrative panic at the University of Virginia following Rolling Stone’s bogus assault article. I’ve got some thoughts at Cato about how the OCR crackdown grows out of a type of federal agency power grab — rule by “Dear Colleague” letter, sometimes known as sub-regulatory guidance or stealth regulation — that did not begin with this issue. As federal agencies have learned how to wield broad regulatory power without having to go through the formal regulatory process with its legal protections for affected parties, the courts have begun to apply skeptical scrutiny — which could open up one avenue of challenging the federal guidelines. Earlier on subregulatory guidance/stealth regulation here, here, etc. More: related from John Graham and James Broughel, Mercatus.
Glenn Reynolds on overcriminalization and regulation [USA Today]:
Regulatory crimes” of this sort are incredibly numerous and a category that is growing quickly. They are the ones likely to trap unwary individuals into being felons without knowing it. That is why Michael Cottone, in a just-published Tennessee Law Review article, suggests that maybe the old presumption that individuals know the law is outdated, unfair and maybe even unconstitutional. “Tellingly,” he writes, “no exact count of the number of federal statutes that impose criminal sanctions has ever been given, but estimates from the last 15 years range from 3,600 to approximately 4,500.” Meanwhile, according to recent congressional testimony, the number of federal regulations (enacted by administrative agencies under loose authority from Congress) carrying criminal penalties may be as many as 300,000.
And it gets worse. While the old-fashioned common law crimes typically required a culpable mental state — you had to realize you were doing something wrong — the regulatory crimes generally don’t require any knowledge that you’re breaking the law. This seems quite unfair.
Can New York City really support an army of an estimated 8,300 “expediters” who run paperwork around to city offices, wait in line, haggle with officials, and generally navigate the bureaucracy on behalf of those who need permits, licenses and other municipal decisions? It’s a testimony to the dysfunction of the city’s governance [Kanner, Renn/Urbanophile]
One consequence of the events in Ferguson, Mo. is that people are talking with each other across ideological lines who usually don’t, a symbol being the attention paid on both left and right to Sen. Rand Paul’s op-ed last week in Time. And one point worth discussing is how the problem of police militarization manifests itself similarly these days in local policing and in the enforcement of federal regulation.
At BuzzFeed, Evan McMorris-Santoro generously quotes me on the prospects for finding common ground on these issues. The feds’ Gibson Guitar raid — our coverage of that here — did much to raise the profile of regulatory SWAT tactics, and John Fund cited others in an April report:
Many of the raids [federal paramilitary enforcers] conduct are against harmless, often innocent, Americans who typically are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations.
Take the case of Kenneth Wright of Stockton, Calif., who was “visited” by a SWAT team from the U.S. Department of Education in June 2011. Agents battered down the door of his home at 6 a.m., dragged him outside in his boxer shorts, and handcuffed him as they put his three children (ages 3, 7, and 11) in a police car for two hours while they searched his home. The raid was allegedly intended to uncover information on Wright’s estranged wife, Michelle, who hadn’t been living with him and was suspected of college financial-aid fraud.
The year before the raid on Wright, a SWAT team from the Food and Drug Administration raided the farm of Dan Allgyer of Lancaster, Pa. His crime was shipping unpasteurized milk across state lines to a cooperative of young women with children in Washington, D.C., called Grass Fed on the Hill. Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The raid forced Allgyer to close down his business.
Fund goes on to discuss the rise of homeland-security and military-surplus programs that have contributed to the rapid proliferation of SWAT and paramilitary methods in local policing. He cites Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, which similarly treats both manifestations of paramilitary policing as part of the same trend.
As McMorris-Santoro notes in the BuzzFeed piece, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) has introduced a bill called the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act, citing such unsettling developments as a U.S. Department of Agriculture solicitation for submachine guns. 28 House Republicans have joined as sponsors, according to Ryan Lovelace at National Review.
There has already been left-right cooperation on the issue, as witness the unsuccessful Grayson-Amash amendment in June seeking to cut off the military-surplus 1033 program. As both sides come to appreciate some of the common interests at stake in keeping law enforcement as peaceful and proportionate as situations allow, there will be room for more such cooperation. (& welcome Instapundit, Radley Balko, Bainbridge readers; cross-posted at Cato at Liberty)