Monday, February 14, 2011

Sensible government regulation really does make a difference

Just the word "regulation" sounds harsh to some people. Some politicians are taking advantage of that perception to cast doubt on whether government regulation is truly an effective tool for improving lives and economic security. But sensible government regulation really does make a positive difference, as our friends at the Demos think tank point out in a new paper. Here are the introductory paragraphs:

In the school of brutally hard knocks, America has relearned something about the business world: it needs rules. When we let corporate and financial insiders decide large questions of right and wrong for themselves, we invite trouble. The most devastating financial crisis since the Great Depression, the biggest mining disaster in four decades, and the worst undersea oil leak (and one of the worst environmental tragedies) ever have driven that point home.

This report documents another under-appreciated lesson of our national experience - that good rules and effective enforcement are within our power to achieve. It may be hard to look past the cascade of calamities; but if we make the effort (and turn down the volume knob on the cynical voices telling us to expect no better), a more hopeful story comes into view. That story is one of daunting health, safety, and environmental problems overcome or eased by acts of federal, state, and local rule-making; of measures that have saved lives, prevented sickness, empowered workers and consumers, spurred innovation, and advanced the common good.

The "good rules" the author points to include building codes, the Americans with Disabilities Act, car safety, banning DDT and more.

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