The Wall Street Journal published an essay by Charles Murray last week, “Regulation Run Amok — And How to Fight Back,” arguing that “America is no longer the land of the free” due to the modern regulatory state. He cites Thomas Jefferson’s definition of good government as one “which shall restrain men from injuring on another” and “shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.” This presumption of freedom, says Murray, no longer holds.
He says that at last count there are nearly 5,000 federal crimes you can commit. He states that “No individual can know how to “obey” laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley (810 pages), the Affordable Care Act (1,024 pages) or Dodd-Frank (2,300 pages).” He notes that their are over 175,000 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations, most of which were not created by legislation but written by regulatory agencies.
He is clear that “I’m not complaining about regulations that require, say, sturdy structural supports for tunnels in coal mines.” He suggests categories that could include “pointless, stupid or tyrannical” regulations that “should come under strict scrutiny include regulations that prescribe best practice for a craft or profession; restrict access to an occupation; prohibit owners of property from using it as they wish; prescribe hiring, firing and working conditions; and prevent people from taking voluntary risks.”
This focus on professional licensing is an issue we at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation have fought for years and hope to make progress on next year.
All in all, an essay worth reading and a fight worth fighting.