There will always be some anecdote making it sound like increased regulation is our only option. A posture of principled skepticism toward the very concept of government regulation – an assumption that given our natural rights, it should be rare and limited – is the only thing that will consistently defeat those incessant appeals.
We’ve reached the end of the line. Our freedom to start businesses has been seriously degraded. The cost of inputs to all facets of life, including operating a business, has soared, due largely to regulation. We aren’t better off for all this regulation, which has gone so far beyond things like clean water and warding off disease that it is now doubling back on itself, and deliberately denying us water and declining to spray public spaces for disease-carrying mosquitoes. Regulation has left the compact with the public behind, and is now more about restraining citizens than about helping them – more about creating new sinecures for policy advocates than about ensuring the people have full, unfettered use of their property and their individual gifts.
We can’t compromise with the regulatory impulse. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last 100 years, and this is where we are because of it. Overregulation has created the flailing America of 2012. Only a dramatic reduction of regulation at the top two levels of government – federal and state – can make the difference we need. Unless we get this through our heads, the American idea of liberty, with rights of men that are good against regulation, no matter how badly its advocates want to impose it, will die with my generation.
* The quotations are taken from Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson, Reagan’s Path to Victory (New York: Free Press, 2004). The book compiles the notes Reagan made for a number of his five-minute radio broadcasts between 1975 and 1979. Skinner and the Andersons transcribed Reagan’s hand-written notes by reproducing his own notations such as ampersands, strike-throughs, and abbreviations. For clarity, I have excerpted the quotations here using full words rather than abbreviations, using “and” for ampersand, correcting spelling, and so forth. I’ve left the sentence punctuation mostly alone, although it could use some commas. The pages on which the quotations in this post occur in the 2004 hardback edition are, in order: pp. 128-9, “Added Inflation”; pp. 220-21, “Free Enterprise”; pp. 259-60, “Regulation.”