brotherpeacemaker

It's about our community and our spirituality!

Regulations Are A Necessary Evil

It is a mantra of conservative politics.  Excessive federal regulations are choking the life out of business.  Never mind that a local or state government could pass the same regulation or make even more stringent regulations on a business and nobody says peep.  Regulations from Washington, DC makes it impossible for America’s businesses to compete in the global market.  Never mind that American businesses are more profitable now than they’ve ever been in history.  Never mind that the wealth of the upper echelons on the financial ladder continues to grow at a phenomenal rate.  Even though businesses are extremely wealthy, they are going broke and the primary reason is the regulations that continue to stifle creativity and competitiveness even though businesses are more competitive and are more efficient than ever.

But there is a reason regulations were put in place.  It might be hard to fathom but there was a time when businesses in this country operated with very little regulation.  Nobody thought it would take regulations to make cars safer until it became painfully apparent that American car companies would rather sell faulty unsafe hunks of junk to a public that simply assumed car companies wanted to keep us safe.  Nobody thought it would take regulations to make a food company sell us foods without toxic levels of substances until we found out that food companies would be more than happy to sell us packaged poisons.  Nobody thought it would take regulations to make a manufacturer stop dumping into rivers and streams and lakes until we saw these waters catch fire and/or poison the aquatic life under their surface.  And everybody knows that there are plenty of American companies who would prefer to pass on hiring blacks and other minorities to work in their facilities if regulations didn’t make it necessary to have some kind of racial representation on their work force.

The way some people like to tell the story you would think that some bureaucrat is sitting off somewhere doing nothing but thinking of ways to screw the business community into oblivion with oppressive regulations.  But just about every business regulation put to paper was done so because we learned that people who run businesses didn’t always voluntarily do the right thing when it comes to anything or anyone who wasn’t an investor.  Too many businesses have a history of doing nothing or doing no more than the absolute minimum as required by law.  That’s one of the reasons why we have to add regulations on top of regulations.

The other reason we have to add more regulations on top of regulations is because many deep pocketed businesses have legions of lawyers to comb through laws to find each and every loop hole that can be used to manipulate the system.  There’s a reason why the book of regulations meant to serve as the minimum requirements to manufacture a toothbrush is as thick as the Chicago phonebook.  Without explicit instructions to remove any chance of vague interpretation and/or potential for misunderstanding, businesses will simply shrug their collective shoulders and swear that they didn’t understand that polluting the drinking water was unacceptable.  Corporations hold the lion’s share of responsibility for the regulatory climate we exist under.  And if we didn’t like the way businesses conducted themselves prior to regulations, what makes us think that businesses will do the right thing if we stop regulating?

There’s a reason that we have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Does anybody remember the images of polluted waterways from the 1970’s before the EPA existed?  Does anybody remember how phosphates were heavily used in our detergents and led to the overabundance of algae in streams that reduced the oxygen supply of the water and suffocated the fish?  Does anybody remember how lead in our gasoline led to more air pollution from cars?  Does anybody remember how automobile companies fought tooth and nail to keep seatbelt laws off the books because it gave the public impression that driving automobiles could be unsafe?  Does anybody remember how car companies resisted airbags?  Does anybody remember how we used to let chemical companies poison our children with leaded paint?

Regulations are not a bad thing.  If anything, regulations have been very helpful.  They are not a necessary evil, they are a necessary good.  The idea that we should go back to a time when businesses can operate with impunity doesn’t sit well with me and it shouldn’t sit well with you.  Businesses want to convince us that they’ve learned from the past and are ready to do the right thing without being forced is a fairy tale.  Just look at the way businesses are pushing for the abolishment of the EPA.  They are practically salivating at the mouth over the profits they’ll reap when they don’t have to be forced to clean up after themselves.  If we don’t mandate that they actually cleanup, chances are pretty high that all they will do is create a marketing campaign that will help convince the public that they’re being good citizens and their job will be done.

Monday, January 23, 2012 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

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