Grassroot Perspective: Regulators Run Wild, the West Side’s Story, and More

Polihale State Park, photo by Travis Thurston
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Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind

Polihale State Park, photo by Travis Thurston

By Malia Hill


“Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”—Adam Smith

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

Regulators, Mount Up

Credit must be given to whoever thought up the title for the new report on federal regulation from the Competitive Enterprise Institute: Ten Thousand Commandments.  It pretty much sums up the problem inherent in our over-regulated nation.  Though few may be hardy enough to read the entirety of the 66 page document, it is well worth a brief look, if only to remind yourself of what the authors work hard to remind us all—that regulations function as hidden law (and a hidden tax) on our society.  A few stomach-turning facts from this report include: that the Small Business Administration estimate that annual regulatory compliance costs more than $1.752 trillion; given annual government spending of about $3.598 trillion (yes, really), this regulatory “hidden tax” accounts for more than 48% of federal spending; and in 2011, agencies issued 3807 final rules and proposed 2898 rules, an increase of 6.5% and 18.8% over the previous year, respectively.

Kauai Does it Right

And, even more impressively, someone noticed.  Paul Jacobs has the story of how private enterprise was able to do what the state government would not—fix a bridge, the damage to which had forced Polihale State Park to close indefinitely.  Local businesses would suffer greatly from the State’s dilatory timetable for fixing it, so they . . . just did it themselves.  And more efficiently than the government could hope to do.  Way to go West Side! (In case it’s not obvious, my family is largely from the West Side of Kauai.  And I’m so pleased to see them get the credit for the sense of community and enterprise that is present there that I’m going to gracefully ignore the reference to Kauai being the, “fourth most famous island.”)

Obama’s College Tour

A moment of sympathy for the politician who has to pander to a wide variety of different constituencies: when the primary way of “feeling your pain” is through spending and credits, the whole thing can get a little contradictory.  As Charles Kadlec explains, this is precisely the quandary that Obama found himself in while seeking to relight the fires of his student following.  Some Presidents have asked students to ask themselves what they can do for their country.  The sitting President, however, enumerated the things that their country was going to do for them—at least as far as student loan interest rates go.  It was a strangely sad moment, when the youthful idealism that helped sweep Obama into office transformed itself into just another special interest group seeking some stimulus.  (Not to mention that what was proposed was yet another band-aid solution that does nothing to address the skyrocketing tuition prices at the heart of the issue.)

Germany, A Cautionary Tale

You can’t open a paper these days (assuming people still read physical newspapers—but it seems less picturesque to say, “you can’t click on Google news these days”) without encountering a long article from someone explaining the European financial crisis, austerity, and What It All Means.  For a more interesting (if slightly ominous) take, however, you may want to read a classical historian’s warning.  Victor Davis Hanson makes the point that the “blame Germany” wind blowing in Europe—largely due to Germany’s own financial success—has unfortunate historical parallels.  And may be reason enough to follow a more cautious route that would “let sleeping Germans lie.”

Fairness Is Inherently Unfair

I’ve written here before about the disconnect between fairness and equality—something that seems to come up quite a bit in these difficult financial times (and which is easily misunderstood by those who make a career out of grievance).  John Stossel has an interesting article probing the unequal results of true fairness.  Free enterprise produces disparity.  But the question people need to ask themselves is not whether the outcome is the same, but whether both sides are equally satisfied with their ability to make that free market exchange.  Fairness is not about results, but about opportunity.

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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