Recent decades have seen a decline in economic growth and innovation, and one important cause is poorly-designed government policies.
Large swaths of the American economy are distorted by government mandates and incentives, and the vast majority of binding “laws” are not enacted by our elected representatives in Congress, but are promulgated by agencies as regulations.
Disagreement over government policy is inevitable in a society where people’s values, opinions, incomes, and interests vary widely, and when the breadth of government has grown substantially.
While the goals of most regulatory programs enjoy broad public support, in practice regulation usually comes down to detailed rules and lots of paperwork that can be highly costly and burdensome to those who must comply with them.
But all of us pay for federal regulations through higher prices, fewer available products, services, and opportunities, and stifled wages or job opportunities.
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The costs of regulation are never “absorbed” by businesses; they always fall on real people.
For citizens to intelligently hold elected officials accountable, however, policies’ benefits and costs must be visible.
While policies effected through both spending and regulatory programs provide benefits to Americans, the costs associated with regulatory programs are much less transparent than their on-budget counterparts.
These costs are like stealth taxation, and because they are assumed to fall on businesses (even though individual consumers and workers ultimately bear them), regulatory tools may seem preferable to direct spending programs for accomplishing an agency’s policy objectives.
Further, regulations have the force of law, but Congress usually just sets broad regulatory goals by statute, and delegates the power to write and enforce detailed rules to specialized regulatory agencies.