Let me ask you a question. What are you an expert on? Seriously what is it that you know forwards and backwards? Personal finance? Personal computing? Picking out the right wine to go with a meal? Fixing a car, rewiring a house, training a dog? Almost everyone is at least good, often very very good, at something. Some are even good, sometimes very very good, at many somethings. But if you are like most people, I’d be willing to bet that you aren’t good at everything.
The simple fact is that no one is. Every day, most of us make decisions about things that we know very little about. Many of us try to research these things as best we are able, but even with the internet to help, some of the topics with which we may have to deal are so complex that only someone with years of training and experience can really steer us in the right direction. Sadly all too often such a person is not available to us, for reasons ranging from said person simply not existing near us, to said person existing but charging fees that, while not unreasonable, are still far higher than what we can afford to pay.
This is just one of the many reasons why we need strong government regulations.There is another reason, one that is perhaps even more important than the first. American business, as it has been framed for at least the last hundred plus years is designed to be completely amoral. There is quite literally, all things being equal, no incentive for businesses to care about doing the right thing, any more than they feel they absolutely have to. All too often their default position is to do what they like, and on the far too few occasions that a person or group of people manage to sue them, they then will often tie things up in litigation hoping that the ability of the aggrieved party will falter before the cost of defending themselves outstrips what it would have taken to simply have made things right, or even better yet to have prevented the problem in the first place.
Once again the redress for this is regulation.
Regulation has been demonized, by the Right, and by Big Business, for as long as the idea has been around. Sadly, it has become all too common today, for average people to have bought into the web of bullshit that those two spin, about how onerous even the lightest and most reasonable of regulation is. Even sadder still is the fact that Democrats who are supposed to be the voice for regulation have either jumped on the “Deregulation” band wagon as Clinton did, or failed to fight effectively against it as was the case with Carter.
But regulation is good, and decent, and noble and right.
When you buy milk at the grocery, stamped with its use by date, you can trust that the milk in that container will not be spoiled, and if it is, then you can trust that you can return it and get your money back thanks to regulation.
When you go to buy a house, or a used car, the reason why the seller must state up front anything they know of that is wrong with either, in some cases having to put it in writing is because of regulation.
When a business is kept from making claims that they either, do not know for certain to be true, or even worse know for certain to be untrue, the reason for that is regulation.
When you have to deal with the final disposition of the remains of a loved one, a time when people are often at their most vulnerable and least clear-headed, the funeral home MUST list everything they are charging you for before you sign anything, because of regulation.
It is regulation that assures that people get fair treatment, and quality products and services.
There are always those who want to whine and cry about how awful it is that “No one trusts anyone any more!” insinuating that we should just go on faith unless someone does something bad. These are usually the same people who interestingly enough want to limit a persons right to sue if they are defrauded in a business transaction. Personally they’ve nothing to say that I’ve any interest in hearing since I’d be willing to lay good money down on the table to bet that they are all hypocrites. Unless they don’t own or use locks on their doors, then I’d say their “trust” is pretty much a one way street.
Then there are the ones (usually the same ones as mentioned above) who complain about how Regulation only increases the cost of doing business. Sometimes this is true. Often the increase is, over the long-term, fairly miniscule. Sometimes admittedly the cost is fairly high, but this is most often in those businesses that have managed to go unregulated for far too long. The irony that many businesses do not wish to acknowledge is that sometimes regulation will SAVE them money, because in forbidding them from engaging in one type of potentially risky behavior or another, they are saved from taking a chance, having it go badly, and being successfully sued for far more than the cost of following the regulations.
However there is a problem abroad in the land.
During the 80′s Ronald Reagan brought the spirit of deregulation with him and passed that spirit on to Bill Clinton. Over time though the support for massive deregulation seemed to start to wane. And so a program, active to this day of back door deregulation was stepped up. The best example of this can be seen with regards to the Food and Drug Administration. It is just one of many government agencies that is so horribly underfunded on top of laws being passed that all but strip it of the power to take action that it cannot effectively enforce the regulations that do exist. It is thanks to situations like this, that the salmonella tainted peanut epidemic of a couple of years ago was allowed to happen.
Back door deregulation is what allowed the horrible disaster caused by BP last year to happen.
But writing regulation, and funding its enforcement is not by themselves enough. There is an important third component, that even the most strident Progressives all too often fail to acknowledge, let alone articulate. For regulation to be effective much of it Must be at the Federal not the state level.
Once upon a time when it was possible for a person to be born, live and die without leaving their home town, never mind their home state, nor really have their lives directly impacted by what happened in other areas, it made a certain amount of sense to have Federal regulations be fairly minimal, almost like an outline and let the states have more control. That time is passed. If you need a clear proof of what a disaster weak Federal regulation and deference to the will of the states is I have just three words for you… Credit Card Companies.
Despite doing business all over the country these companies set up their “official” headquarters in states that have little to no regulation of their practices, meaning that unless a card holder is lucky enough to live in a state with laws that have been written in such a way as to regulate the transaction at the cardholders end, regardless of the laws where the card provider is based they have little to no protection.
Recently there has been some attempts to change some of this as regards credit cards thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of Elizabeth Warren. But like almost all regulation of any kind it has been fought tooth and nail by the Right and Big Business. A huge shock I know.
The bottom line is that no matter what free market fantasies the Right might spin, businesses are loath to put what is right above what is profitable. And in this day and age thanks to the Interstate and the Internet, we are no longer a loosely affiliated collection of somewhat united states. We are one country and it’s high time that our regulation and enforcement of that regulation accepted and reflected these facts.
Keep The Faith My Brothers And Sisters!
The following resources were consulted in the creation of this article:
From AlcatrazHistory.com: Al Capone At Alcatraz
From ConsumerAffairs.com: Life Alert Emergency Response
Special thanks to @Shoq
- Robert Reich: Why the Republican Attack on “Job-Killing Regulations” Is Dumb (huffingtonpost.com)