Deregulation

Job Killers

Advocates of regulations don't acknowledge the law of unintended consequences.

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Politicians say they "create jobs." In fact, only the private sector generates the information needed to create real, productive jobs.

Since this current post-recession job recovery is the slowest in 80 years, you'd think that even know-it-all politicians would want to sweep away the labyrinth of government regulations that hinders job creation. Successful job creators like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Staples founder Tom Stemberg tell me there are so many new rules and taxes today that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to create the thousands of jobs they once made.

The feds now have 160,000 pages of rules. Does anyone read all that? I doubt it. (Members of Congress don't read the bills they vote on.) Do the rules make life safer? No. A few new rules are useful, but most are not. Their sheer volume makes us less safe and less free.

In fact, the thick rulebooks help cheaters by giving them an indecipherable screen to hide behind. They also mislead consumers by giving them the illusion of protection. "I don't need to worry because regulation protects me." It's why some sophisticated people gave all their savings to Bernie Madoff.

A false sense of security is worse than none at all.

And the waste! Americans will spend $46 billion a year to obey just the new regulations the Obama administration imposed. Think of the money diverted to lawyers, accountants and "compliance officers"—money that might have created jobs and financed products that could make our lives better.

Alison Fraser, who keeps track of these things for the Heritage Foundation, points out that George W. Bush's administration was a big regulator, too. "President Bush…had 28 major new rules passed in the first three years alone," said Fraser on my Fox Business show. "We've had a virtual explosion—almost a regulatory assault on our system of free enterprise and on our job creators."

The mainstream media portray Bush as a deregulator and blame his nonexistent deregulation for the housing and financial debacle. But the opposite is true. Bush hired thousands of new regulators. He only looks good in comparison to Obama—which is not saying much.

Advocates of regulations don't acknowledge the law of unintended consequences. The Department of Energy demands energy-efficient appliances. But the extra cost deters some consumers from buying new appliances, so they stick with the old, wasteful ones.

On top of doing little good, endless rules kill the freedom that made America the land of opportunity. We preach entrepreneurship, and try to teach children the value, satisfaction and excitement of starting their own businesses. Then we let entrepreneurial opportunity be crushed under the weight of the regulatory state. The byzantine rules send this message to Americans: Don't try. Don't build anything. Don't innovate. Don't create anything new.

Let's not overlook the fact that big businesses often have no problem with this. They frequently benefit from complex regulation because it increases the chance that potential competition won't even get off the ground. Big business's hand has been behind the regulatory state at least back to the Progressive Era.

I could give you endless examples of small businesses crushed by big government. Here are two from my last TV show:

Shelly Goodman paid millions to buy a 13,000-square-foot mansion on 10 acres in Arizona in order to create a wedding reception center and bed-and-breakfast. Local bureaucrats forced her to spend thousands of dollars on studies to show that her business would not create burdensome traffic or noise. She did. The studies said it wouldn't. Yet the big house sits empty because her local government refuses to let her operate a business, even on her own property.

In Virginia, Greg Garrett started farming oysters. His neighborhood is zoned for livestock. He could raise buffalo, but local bureaucrats decreed that he could not sell oysters. Why not? My staff talked to the zoning official, and we still have no clue. That's the case with a lot of American law. It's arbitrary power. Regulations are so numerous and complex that no one really understands them. This diminishes our ability to flourish.

Big government makes us all small.

John Stossel (read his Reason archive) is the host of Stossel, which airs Thursdays on the FOX Business Network at 9 pm ET and is rebroadcast on Saturdays and Sundays at 9pm & midnight ET. Go here for more info.

NEXT: Simpson-Bowles Knocked Out Like Trevor Berbick; House Shuts Out Obama Budget Like Bob Feller

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  1. I thought those solar tubes were way smaller than that.

    1. Go Big Or Go Home.

  2. Why is the Stossel column always a week late?

  3. At some point, people will start to simply ignore their government. In government’s quest for infinite power, it’ll have none.

    1. You can ignore government all you want.

      That doesn’t mean it will ignore you.

      1. That doesn’t mean it will ignore you.

        Valid point; and nothing stops them from “making examples” out of those that get too uppity (Gibson Guitar).

        At some point though, the standard response will become “Oh fuck off,” which will hopefully get people interested in changing the Federal Government’s power. I look forward to that day.

        1. At some point though, the standard response will become “Oh fuck off,”

          Not when the standard response to “Oh fuck off” is a club up side the head.

          1. Not when the standard response to “Oh fuck off” is a club up side the head.

            Goddamnit, I’m sure you’re RC Dean now.

            More seriously, I don’t think the “club upside the head” argument would work in America until the citizenry is disarmed. Even then, it didn’t work in USSR…

            People generally want to be left the fuck alone to do their own thing. I may be biased from living in the South for so long. I don’t think Americans in general will tolerate the hyper-regulation that Obama envisions.

            1. I don’t think the “club upside the head” argument would work in America until the citizenry is disarmed.

              Really? Go out and tell the next cop you see “Aw fuck off” and tell me what happens.

              1. Really? Go out and tell the next cop you see “Aw fuck off” and tell me what happens.

                Come on, that’d be seeking a response with no purpose.

                Now, if he comes on my property and tells me I can’t do something that I feel is well within my right, I may very well tell him to fuck off.

                1. Now, if he comes on my property and tells me I can’t do something that I feel is well within my right, I may very well tell him to fuck off.

                  Related anecdote:

                  Twenty or so years ago my father purchased a house that has a nice greenhouse in the back yard.
                  Recently he got the ball rolling with a contractor to get an addition added to the home.
                  Some bureaucratic fuck told him that since the greenhouse was built without a permit, it must be torn down before he’ll issue the permit for the addition.
                  There’s nothing wrong with the greenhouse, except that it was built without asking “Mother may I?”
                  It’s gonna cost my father ten grand to replace it.

                  1. What’s the penalty if he doesn’t obtain the permit?

                    1. If he doesn’t obtain a permit for the addition then the contractor won’t build it.

                    2. If he doesn’t obtain a permit for the addition then the contractor won’t build it.

                      I don’t know what the local laws are, but since the house was bought with the greenhouse on the property I imagine you could get a judge or magistrate to straighten things out with the bureaucrat.

                      Also, he could just find a contractor that will build the addition without a permit, and tell the bureaucrat to go fuck himself.

                    3. since the house was bought with the greenhouse on the property I imagine you could get a judge or magistrate to straighten things out with the bureaucrat

                      That’s what I thought. Maybe it wasn’t on the assessment when the house was purchased, and pushing the issue could result in owing back property taxes.

                      I think he’s telling me after-the-fact knowing him, and already tore it down.

                      Either way that bureaucratic fuck needs his balls shaved with a rusty soup can.

                    4. I’m sure he can find someone who will be willing to build it “on the sly”. The real problem will be if he ever tries to sell the house.

                    5. I’m sure he can find someone who will be willing to build it “on the sly”. The real problem will be if he ever tries to sell the house.

                      Right. So when he goes to sell the place that miffed inspector will require that a $100K addition be torn down before selling the place.

                      No?

                    6. Right. So when he goes to sell the place that miffed inspector will require that a $100K addition…

                      Or just find someone that’ll conveniently overlook it like the last person did.

                    7. The real problem will be if he ever tries to sell the house.

                      Just a guess, but put it on wheels and say it’s not part of the property, like a boat or rv. There may not be any permit legally required then.

                  2. My brother had a few run-ins with those kinds of petty bureaucrats where he lived. Probably a coincidence but it was funny how, sooner or later, the guy’s car or his house got vandalized.

                    1. I approve when petty bureaucrats suffer the consequences of their actions.

            2. Also, I’m almost at the point that I’d rather do nothing than obey some bureaucrat’s whims. I’m positive there are many more like me.

              1. Rusty soup can too good for him. Use rusty spoon.

                1. Hanover Fiste: He’s nothing but a low-down, double-dealing, backstabbing, larcenous perverted worm! Hanging’s too good for him. Burning’s too good for him! He should be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive!

                  1. Great movie!

              2. I believe that’s Stossel’s point.

            3. More seriously, I don’t think the “club upside the head” argument would work in America until the citizenry is disarmed.

              It happens all the time.

              Violate any law while going your own way, and ignore the citations, fines, and whatnot, and eventually you will get escalated to a criminal violation, where the jackboots and nightsticks will make an appearance.

        2. I dream of a future where the task of enforcing compliance becomes too difficult for government work.

        3. No, at some point we will become a full-fledged member of the Third World. Laws and regulations are just reasons for bureaucrats and police to collect bribes. Their laws are meaningless because nobody follows or enforces them – they just pay and collect.

    2. Never going to happen. The sad fact is, most people want it this way. They want the warm arms of nanny government wrapped around them, even if they get crushed to death.

      1. A big reason for that is the fact that most people aren’t interested in starting a business of their own. Most of us (myself included) work for someone else, usually a corporation of some kind.

        It would be nice to start a business, but I’m not going to for pretty much the reason stated in this article. The regulatory hurdles are just too damn high to make it worth my while.

  4. Then we let entrepreneurial opportunity be crushed under the weight of the regulatory state. The byzantine rules send this message to Americans: Don’t try. Don’t build anything. Don’t innovate. Don’t create anything new.

    The entrepreneur and the bureaucrat are diametrically opposed. The entrepreneur thrives on novelty and ingenuity; they create something new. The entrepreneur is the personification of individual freedom and self-reliance. They build material wealth through fair competition in the market, a.k.a. ‘free enterprise’.
    (cont)

    1. (cont)
      To the bureaucrat all of this is an anathema. In order for the bureaucrat to thrive, he or she needs stability. This ‘stability’ comes from the unthinking adherence to rules and regulations. Innovation threatens this stability. Furthermore, the bureaucrat cannot abide self-reliance, for it destroys the hierarchy that the bureaucrat draws his or her power from.

      For the bureaucrat, equality of opportunity threatens their path to material wealth. They must keep their role as ‘gatekeeper,’ only allowing those who would contribute to maintaining their position in society to achieve success.

      1. I agree with this premise; but also note that the bureaucrat is necessarily always a step behind the entrepreneur. The bureaucrat can’t regulate an industry that hasn’t been invented yet; ie, automotive, internet, etc.

        This alone gives me hope. Until dean comes up here and shits all over it.

      2. The influence of these magistrates and mandarins, these apparatchiki and nomenklatura, must be driven out of our society. We must treat them like the parasites that they are; showing no sympathy or remorse when they are excised so that the host might be healthy.

        1. . We must treat them like the parasites that they are; showing no sympathy or remorse when they are excised

          I originally read this as “exorcised,” which seems more fitting.

          1. How do you recommend having the apartchiks exercised? Out to the fields with hoes and shovels and work the land – digging graves?

            1. hey, if you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet, you should be prepared to bury the eggshells.

            2. Driving them to the sea would suffice.

    2. So, what you’re saying here is that we need some sort of Innovation Czar to promote innovation and entrepreneurship through his enlightened direction?

      1. One man isn’t democratic enough; there should be a committee of top economic deep thinkers. You know, people like Paul Krugman, Tom Friedman, PZ Myers, etal.

        1. With their own TV show, carried on all networks, at 8:00 on Thursdays? The Innovators?

          1. Watching the show will be mandatory. Commerce Clause!

          2. “The Innovation Squad”. Watch the wacky adventures of these super pundits trying to get people to be creative for the state. Also, listen to Tommy whine every week how they need to take a trip to China. Will they go this week? Tune in to find out.

            1. They need a cool theme song and opening credits. And Clarence Williams III should be the host.

  5. Think of the money diverted to lawyers, accountants and “compliance officers”

    Oh, I do. Every payday.

    1. *laughing all the way to the bank*

  6. So Mr. Stossel’s evidence for Obama’s regulation explosion that is killing innovation includes two local zoning issues that have nothing to do with Obama. Thanks, got it.
    (The Obama administration may in fact be stifling innovation and growth with useless regulations, but this article sheds no light on that. It’s just more generic Obama bashing from John Stossel. Yawn.)

    1. The article mentions Obama twice. But it isn’t about Obama. There’s no need to be so sensitive.

      1. Oh but everything’s about Obama isn’t it? Obama uber alles, or some shit.

      2. Obama does blow though.

        He can get sensitive if he wants, because regulation compliance costs have gone up 46 billion dollars.

    2. Yes, the fact that the regulation which killed those businesses were local regs total kills Stossel’s point that regulation kills businesses. It must hurt to be so smart. See a doctor about relieving the pressure on your brain.

  7. You can ignore government all you want.

    That doesn’t mean it will ignore you.

    Sadly, this.

  8. RC Iron Law #7 applies here: Foreseeable consequences are not unintended.

    We can speculate as to why the statists want jobs killed. But I don’t buy the notion that they aren’t aware of the consequences of their acts.

    1. You forget that they consider bureaucratic positions “jobs”. Hell, we could all be tax attorneys and EEOC compliance specialists and the government would consider it maximum employment.

      1. With nothing to eat.

      2. True, but I meant “jobs” in the real sense of the word not the statist sense.

        I’m growing ever more convinced that their object is to destroy all of the real jobs and replace them with bureaucratic jobs, which they after all regard as superior. (Fuck, just ask Tony.) But, as I say, I’m just speculating at this point.

  9. Big government makes us all small.

    Speak for yourself, John.

  10. 90% of my job is writing paperwork and getting it approved by managers and compliance officers who most of the time don’t understand what it is they’re reviewing, so that I can do the other 10% where I actually produce the products my company sells to the government.

    1. was funnier as Office Space.

      1. Were those TPS Reports printed on EPA compliant paper with an Energy Star printer?

        1. Let me tell you about TPS reports…

      2. I dropped all my clients in health care or doing government work in aerospace.

        I’m expanding into agriculture support services. Federal and state IT regulations covering that market are only 16 pamplets and 2 bound volumes worth in my area.

    2. ^This. If I’d realized how shitty being an engineer was (thanks, government!), I probably wouldn’t have bothered going to college and earning that bachelor’s degree.

    3. My wife works on the pipelines of an energy company. There are employees in her group that are solely there to acquire permits from the state for digs. The state collects money from each permit, but state employees never even read the permits. This means that employees are dedicated to handling pointless bureaucracy.

      But these regulations keep us safe, or something.

    4. Jesus Christ this is so true.
      And the federal auditors either are smart as shit or completely fucking ignorant so there’s not even a coherent measuring stick.
      *engineer in medical field

  11. Do we need to log in?

  12. What if the intent has always been to kill jobs? I know never to assume malice when incompetence will suffice, but there are days when they went out of their way to kill job. Take EPA’s war against coal.

  13. This is a comment

  14. Are we logging in now?

  15. By far the single biggest thorn in my side is regulatory compliance, especially regulations that I can’t predict in advance. I’ve got to deal with maintaining RoHS supply chain documentation so that I can export to California and Europe. I’ve got to ensure employees don’t under-report their hours worked (if they do, it’s my legal responsibility, not theirs). I have to make sure any changes in job duties get communicate to the Bureau of Workers’ Comp. I have to ensure my locations will make the local fire inspector happy (nevermind my insurance company has no problem underwriting my fire risk).

    I’m looking for a new facility, and the single biggest factor I care about is how much of a pain getting the relevant business use permits and/or zoning permits (and possible zoning appeals) will be.

    Don’t even get me started on the small mountain of paperwork hiring a new employee involves.

  16. Behindertsein ist sch?n

  17. Has the USA passed India yet in terms of strangulation by red tape?

    Regulation is like taxes – “How much do we need? Just a little more.” The regulation is only necessary to take care of “the worst of the excesses”, but no matter how many bad things you get rid of, there will still always be the worst of the excesses.

    And the regulators don’t look at the big picture, it’s not their job to look at the big picture. OSHA’s job is to make us safer on the job – the cost of making us safer is of secondary importance. And no matter how safe we are, we can always be safer so OSHA’s job will never be done. It’s just that the arithmetically marginal gains in safety become geometrically more expensive.

    “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

  18. “Are we stupid in America?”

    If you have to ask… YES.

  19. Oooo, a give me a break in the opening setup.

  20. Wait a minute, where’s the studio? Is this a Stossel special?

  21. This just in: Charter school teachers are attractive.

  22. “If I’m not doing my job, per se…”

    He should be fired for using per se there.

  23. Ha, the shitty salary line getting picked apart.

  24. “They grew the bureaucracy” in public schools. Sounds like they’re just keeping pace with trends in higher education.

  25. “If I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in…”

    I would be a great president.

  26. Del Grosso’s stand at the schoolhouse door against private school.

  27. Teacher tenure as being a made man by the Mafia. Nice, Del Grosso.

  28. The camera was not Smith’s hair’s friend.

  29. Whoa, Oprah was in Michelle Rhee’s corner?

  30. No kids means the kid to teacher ratio is pretty desirable, right?

  31. FIRED TEACHERS. Someone hit the outrage button.

  32. Ha, this asshole is telling me that teacher “quality of life” is more important than actually teaching students.

  33. What, private schools have to teach to state tests, too?

  34. Were they drinking energy drinks? Me thinks I found the secret ingredient.

  35. Is this guy preaching broken windows?

  36. Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnn!

  37. Computers make everything better. EXCEPT JUDGEMENT DAY.

  38. Copyright 2011? Stoss tricked me into watching a repeat! Albeit, a pretty good one, but still…

  39. Regarding job-creation, it will never come from government programs and it never has. The whole world has become very incremental about everything, including innovation. Small steps are all we’re willing to even consider.

    I’m following a guy in Austin, TX ? Andrew West. He has the right idea: SOLVE problems with economically-viable solutions and the resulting demand will create jobs. He has tackled the construction industry by enabling high-rise apts/condos for 50% less and in half the time. That’s going to be disruptive. Plus, clean energy, education and agriculture.

    There is an Intro here: http://www.Solutioneur.com

  40. Advocates of government regulations recognize no law, only their unbridled will to power, not natural law – I mean physics and chemistry not metaphysical laws – not Constitutional law, not federal state or local laws … nothing ought to prevent them from imposing their obviously superior wisdom upon those of us too simple, stupid and stubborn to recognize the innate superiority of progressives.

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