Regulation

Ayn Rand Warned Us About the Dangers of a President Like Trump

When we are all lawbreakers, vindictive asses in the executive power seat are all the more dangerous.

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Tyler Cowen, George Mason University economist and chief of the Mercatus Center, warns us at his blog Marginal Revolution that:

if you own a large company, it is virtually impossible to be in accordance with all of the regulations all of the time.  If there were a President who wished to pursue vendettas, the regulatory state would be the most direct and simplest way for him or her to do so.  The usual presumption of "innocent until proven guilty" does not hold in many regulatory matters, nor are there always the usual protections of due process….

Philip Hamburger's book Is Administrative Law Unlawful? occasioned some critical reviews [and] by no means do I agree with everything he said. But these days, the notion that the regulatory state could prove dangerous to individual liberties, and not just to economic growth, needs to be taken more seriously, and he has written the "go to" book on that topic. 

Cowen goes on to point out the special dangers Donald Trump running the executive branch might pose in such a world.

Lots of libertarians, and normal humans as well, learned the overarching basics of that lesson many years ago from Ayn Rand in her novel Atlas Shrugged. (Yes, the same Rand who most anti-Trump crusaders consider a terribly dangerous and ignorant menace.)

In the context of her terrifying tale of a nation and an economy brought to practical and moral ruin by an overpowerful government driven by a veneer of phony altruism, her character Dr. Floyd Ferris tells metal magnate Henry Rearden:

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws….just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers…"

And a nation of law-breakers' freedom depends entirely on when or whether the government decides to crack down. No decent person wants a system like that at all. But one might think someone with Trump's demonstrated sense of raw id would be especially alarming. It's an important argument against Trump, and alas we'll have plenty of need to bring it up over and over again as this election year crawls toward its terrifying climax.