It has been reported that if elected as President of the United States of America, Mitt Romney proposes to introduce a requirement that Federal regulatory bodies can only introduce a new regulation if they eliminate one at the same time. Is this a good idea?
Let’s think this through for a moment. No matter who’s in Government, why would it be making a regulation in the first place? Because it helps implement whatever policy is wanted at the time. So, in theory, the regulation is necessary – or there would be no need to make it.
But a one for one regulation trade-off is just another form of regulation bingo. That’s the game politicians play. And anyone at home can play. All you need to do is call out bingo once you’ve heard enough of the standard phrases trotted out when a politician makes a new regulation. How about “tough, new regulations”, “world first” and “reducing regulatory burden”. I’m sure we’ve all heard those before, as well as “nanny state”, “if we want to be considered a caring society” and “getting on with the job”.
Politicians play regulation bingo because they believe it’s the best way to promote what they fear may not have universal support. A new regulation must impact on someone somewhere or it wouldn’t be needed and we’d be left with a self-regulating system. But self-regulation doesn’t always work which is when the politicians need to step in.
An example of self-regulation and where it may be inadequate is fast food. If the public adequately self-regulated its consumption of fast food, there would be no need for regulations which have been called for such as TV advertising restrictions or differential rate hikes on fast food premises.
Whether placing controls over fast food to limit its consumption is a worthy goal is a debate for another place and time.
But if a Government wanted to do so and it had the necessary evidence to show that the regulation it intended to implement would have the desired impact, it should be free to do so. And it shouldn’t be compelled to eliminate another regulation just so it can proceed with this new one.
While Mitt Romney is currently involved in a process which will only allow him to become a new President if the old one is removed, this doesn’t mean that everything else has to follow that format.
If there are too many regulations, then cut them. If we need new regulations, make them.
Playing a game to pretend that regulations are bad so we need to get rid of them while also trying to make new ones is just, well, silly.