Government Regulation: A good thing, or a bad thing?


This comment thread originated in Secular Sexuality in reference to legalized prostitution, but it has changed into a discussion about government regulation. For that reason, I don’t think it needs to stay in the sexuality group. If you are interested in commenting, then please visit Secular Sexuality and read the original comments.

Below is my response to the last comment posted by AN member "Habman". His words are italicized. BTW, he is against gov regulation, and I am for it.

@ Habman:

Yesterday you said: Regulation is what lead to the Wall Street melt down as people believed that someone else was looking out for their best interests.

So, if people believed that someone else was looking out for them, but they were not really looking out for them, then regulation was not really taking place, right? So how can it be the fault of regulation?

So then what is regulation? If 1000's of pages of law is not then is 2000, 5000, 10000, 100000? So what would you say is "real regulation"?

Regulation isn’t just about rules, or the number of pages in a legal document, it is about common sense oversight that protects people, institutions, and our shared resources.

And insiders will always be making the decisions. Is the Obama administration consulting you regarding what the new regulations for the banking industry should be? No they are being written by industry insiders who have bought and paid for them and the regulations will in the end benefit them and they companies.

Okay, I know I brought up industry insiders, but it is not necessarily a bad thing for them to be involved in regulation policy, as they are the ones with the know how about how an industry or sector works. You certainly don’t want biologists making economic policy. So the problem is not necessarily with insiders or those related to the field. The problem is when these insiders misuse the trust or power given to them in order to benefit a few corporations at the expense of the people.

Please name one thing that government does well. If they can't correctly regulate the banking industry after 200 years then how in the heck can they run the economy? And no the government is not an alien force it is much more insidious. It provides us with the appearance of freedom, but is actually the tool which the powerful and connected use to gain advantage over the unwashed masses, namely us.

They can’t correctly regulate the banking industry because of corruption and loopholes in existing so-called regulation. IMO, most regulation is only masquerading as regulation. One paragraph prohibits something, and the next provides a loophole to get around it. Lobbyists, corporations, and politicians see to that. It is a way of cheating the system, but that is a problem of ethics, and not one of regulation. Also, no, our freedom is not absolute, such as freedom of speech or gun rights, but I believe things like banking and credit industries that have too much power and influence are a bigger threat to freedom than government agencies. And yes, you are right, most laws and policies are, in one form or another, a “tool which the powerful and connected use to gain advantage over the unwashed masses, namely us.”

It is exactly the same thing just a different form. If you believe that the government has the right to regulate any non-violent activity you have given them power to regulate all non-violent activities and they will grab that power like a 4 year old grabs a lollipop.

The gov currently has the power to regulate non-violent activity, and yet we don’t live in a police state, as you are kind of suggesting. I don’t have to “show my papers” everywhere I go, and stuff like that.

All government is force plan and simple. Government is the measured application of violence again anything they deem unlawful.

Governments are a force, but not necessarily always bad. I hope you don’t think the US gov is as “forceful” as the Iranian gov. I’m not suggesting we’re always right, of course; that we don’t have many problems. Also, I am glad that some things are deemed unlawful, and that the government has the power of “measured application of violence again[st]” it—things like rape and murder.

I totally agree that they do, and that is why I oppose government in all its forms.
Your life is the basis of all your property and as such, it is you that should decide how it is used. Period. If you want to ingest a drug for what ever purpose, have at it. As long as you do not intrude on me or my property, you have that un-alienable right. Marriage is another example of usurpation by government.


I do not oppose gov in all forms, as you do. I think that is too extreme of an opinion. I agree, it is up to me to decide how my life is used, not the government’s; same for abortion rights, IMO. And yes, there are many ways in which the gov is too meddlesome. However, that sometimes comes about because of really bad behavior on the part of the citizens, like people dumping trash on the side of the streets. If people disposed of their trash properly, we wouldn’t need laws to regulate and punish behavior, and TX wouldn’t spend something like 11 million per annum to clean up our highways.

Marriage was historically a function of the church with no state involvement. Slowly the government transformed it from a religious rite to a state license.

Thank goodness for that, or else the church would control it still, and divorce and interracial marriage would be “illegal”.

As it currently stands industry can dump toxins poisoning and killing people downstream and as long as they stay under the government regulatory maximums those injured are powerless to do anything about it. They cannot sue for damages because the industry was "operating within the allowable limits". And if the government fines them for dumping the injured parties again get nothing it is the government that benefits.

This is so very true. I agree with you completely. But the fault here is regulation that is too soft, with too many loopholes, that does not punish corporations for hurting citizens, or hold them accountable. Can you honestly suggest that LESS REGULATION would be better, because then the corporations will simply do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts?

Another perfect example. Exactly how does any regulation in the books protect you when you get your taxes done? What actually protects you is the accountant wanting to stay in business. Government regulations in no way insure that the accountant is competent, intelligent or honest. What they actually do is drive up the cost of having your taxes done but limiting the number of accountants available.

It protects me by giving me some assurance that these people are adhering to some standard of training, are proving themselves (through cont. ed testing) competent and able to do their job, that they understand IRS rules, and that they didn’t get their degree from the Copa Cabana School of Accounting. It also gives me a way to seek recourse if they fail to do their job, and to hopefully hold them accountable (that is if lobbyists haven’t weaseled in too many loopholes and corporate protectionism clauses).

Predatory businesses don’t care about doing the right thing. They care about exploiting people, so while an honest person may not need regulation, the crook is certainly not going to protect me just because he wants to stay in business.

Just as medical schools where implemented by doctors to limit the number of doctors practicing by limiting the number that are allowed to graduate.

That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Medical schools were implemented to teach people how to become doctors. It is a pretty hard degree to get, I believe. Certainly harder than the one I got.

Again another example that proves my point. Doctors mistakes kill more people each year that guns, cars, planes and drowning. But we don't see a movement to ban doctors and what where does regulation protect the patient from bad doctors?

Doctor’s don’t kill people. Disease kills people. Doctor’s make mistakes because medicine is not an exact science, diseases mutate or are incurable, and sometimes patients don’t do what they are told or follow RX instructions, etc. No doctor is perfect, they are human, but I can forgive a competent MD who makes a human mistake before I can forgive an incompetent MD who doesn’t give a shit.

In fact every instance you've brought up is handled just fine under civil or criminal law.

Civil and criminal law is a form of regulation and a form of government exerting control over the unwashed masses. I thought you were against all forms of gov, so how can you use that statement? You said: I oppose government in all its forms…

Punished for overly selfish or anti-social ways? Was anyone punished in the banking collapse? How about AIG?

No they were not. They got away with it, and it was wrong. And I’m angry over it. But that didn’t happen because of regulation; that happened because of cronyism, corrupt or weak politicians, and the influence of money in Washington.

No! In both cases in fact some of them received huge freaking bonuses paid for with the fruits of my and your labors in the form of tax dollars for doing so!! This is the product of government regulation.

First sentence is true. Second is not.

But an investment broker with 30 minutes and a pencil figured it out and contacted the SEC, explained the fraud and what did they do about it? They ignored it! Why because Bernie was connected, hell he ran the NYSE. Just proves my point once again.

True, but that does not prove that regulation is wrong. It proves that corruption and a lack of ethics exists where it should not. Not that regulation is inherently a bad idea.

Fraud is already as illegal as it can be, so why in the world would we need another level of laws to protect against it? Regulations of any industry are put in place to allow cover for certain companies at the expense of others.

This is also true, but again, this is not true oversight and regulation. This is corporate welfare masquerading as regulation. It’s just a lie.

Take the NAFTA "free trade" agreement, 12,000 pages of regulation to define "free trade". I can define it in one paragraph, but want it actually did was protect certain companies from having to trade freely in an open and fair marketplace.

Don’t know much about NAFTA, but I tend to think you are right. It also gave us an unfair advantage over the little guy in 3rd world markets because we subsized (corporate welfare) many US businesses, like agribusiness, and they can’t compete with that.

I find it amazing that only when it comes to government are people willing to throw more and more money into a organization that fails time and again.

Would you take your car back into a repair shop that when returned to pick it up after an oil change found that the wheels were missing and then told you that if you just paid them more to begin with it would have never happened? I bet not, so why do you buy into the idea that if we just give them more they will be less corrupt?


So what you are suggesting is that our government run by US citizens is highly flawed and corrupt, but private corporations, run by US citizens, and allowed to do business without regulation would do a better job? That they would not be flawed and corrupt, but would do the right thing, act with honesty, fairness, and integrity out of the goodness of their heart? And that regulation is just holding them back from being the decent, fair-minded citizens they long to be? To me, it sounds like that that is what you are suggesting. The same people that run corporations are often the same ppl in gov, but at least in government people have some sway over who gets elected, who can run for an office, and stuff like that. People have none of that control over corporations.

I’m not saying our gov is perfect, but I still think real, enforceable, honest regulation is better than false regulation or no regulation at all.

So just extend this to the sex trade and you will have just one more mess. The reason that they keep the sex trade illegal is it produces millions in fines and fees that feed the government system with it's prisons, police, judicial and legal systems.

Perhaps so, just as they keep cigarettes legal. It may cause health problems, but it sure does bring in a lot of income in the form of tax dollars -- tax dollars you can count on, cuz it is kind of like, IDK, addictive.

Government creates imagined boogie men to justify its existence, and it is time we see through it.

True, just like republicans do with homosexuals. We're the boogie man whose gonna destroy all those decent, faithful, happy heterosexual marriages. But corporations do this same thing through marketing and consumer pressures, but that is another discussion.

Tags: Washington, congress, corporate welfare, free market, justice, oversight, politics, regulation, rule of law

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So Habman I could be very mistaken but you sound like a Libertarian?? I cannot agree with your assessment of the Wall Street collapse, either this time or in 29. Admittedly the two instances are different but close enough I think for this discussion. Both time periods we operating under un-regulated/ deregulated environments.
Regan's fighting words "Govt. is the answer tho the problem, Govt. is the problem." launched a new generation of conservatives, who were also deeply entwined with xtian right of the time, moving it away from what Barry Goldwater started in the '60s. De-regulation of many major industries ensued. The bottom finally fell completely in 08. Exposing for all to see (myself included) in the fallacy of the "free market" governing itself. Greed will always reign. The average corporate executives seems to worry about only two things, paying share holders, and paying themselves. I do not see much evidence of concern for the workers who make the plants operate, or for the environment it operates in, or for the humanity that it markets too.
I at one time subscribed to Regan's philosophy, (or rather Goldwaters) but when I decided to further examine this anti govt. stance, I realized something.
Every great achievement that has benefited humankind, came about because of govt. support and funding. Which means our support, we the people. Encouraging more cooperation and less competition. More desire to see the completed goal and less desire to roll in obscene amounts of money.
Well said.
No, I am not a Libertarian I am an anarchist.

And no, true anarchists are not those black clothed riot bunnies you see on the news throwing bottle through the windows at the nearest bank or Starbucks. Those for the most part a socialists/communists who think they are anarchists.

So let me ask one simple question then: What do you believe is thoughtful regulation if tens of thousands of pages of law is no good enough?

Also you blame the free market, but just as I asked Gaythiest above, show me a single example of a market that is free in this country.

The supposed "free market" in the financial sector is a fallacy. Financial markets are one of the most tightly regulated markets on the planet. So what people need to be doing is learning about how they work and stop parroting what the talking heads on the TV tell you is happening.

The people that created this nightmare are the ones that profit the most from it. They are also the people that really write the laws and regulations that their industries are bound by.

As I stated before regulation provides industries with cover from being responsible for their actions. The are shielded from taking responsibility for many damaging acts by staying within the limits of the regulations. They can still poison but at "acceptable" levels, it is genuis if you really thing about it.

Without regulation they would be open to direct civil action by those who are harmed by their actions. Under the current system if the SEC goes after a company for wrong doing the harmed parties gets no part of any fines levied.

Now do you really think that they write laws that hurt or help their bottom lines?

This conversation is a perfect example of throwing off the hocus pokus of religion and replacing it with hocus pocus of government.

Why is it that people trust those 1000's of miles away to look out for them, but they don't trust their next door neighbor?
I've read a little about the Anarchist ideaology. I don't think it is inherently bad, but I don't think it is feasible on a massive scale. I just don't see how it would work when you have such interrelated economies, trade, immigration, etc. It might work for small, isolated communities in another time, but I don't see how it could be managable in today's world.

So let me ask one simple question then: What do you believe is thoughtful regulation if tens of thousands of pages of law is no good enough?

That would depend upon what was being regulated, and to what degree, but I think this might be a good foundation:

1. Regulation should provide a basic frame that provides equitable access and opportunity for businesses to fail or succeed on their own merits, while controlling illegal, unproductive, or harmful behavior and policy.

2. It should determine how shared natural resources can be owned, shared, extracted, resused, etc., as well as controllling waste disposal, where necessary.

3. It should be transparent, simple, understandable, achievable, enforceable, and not written with loopholes, exceptions (unless unavoidable), and preferential treatment for certain parties.

I think that is a good starting point.

Financial markets are one of the most tightly regulated markets on the planet.

If that is correct, then why didn't anyone really see this coming, and take action to prevent it? My guess is becuase nobody was truely regulating it. They were looking the other way.

The people that created this nightmare are the ones that profit the most from it. They are also the people that really write the laws and regulations that their industries are bound by.

I completely agree, and that needs to change so that we can prevent corruption and illegal actions. But again, that fault is with lack of enforcement or unethical behavior, and not regulation.

As I stated before regulation provides industries with cover from being responsible for their actions. The are shielded from taking responsibility for many damaging acts by staying within the limits of the regulations. They can still poison but at "acceptable" levels, it is genuis if you really thing about it.

True, but only because the accepted level is set to benefit the corporation, and not protect the people. This kind of regulation is really a sham.

Gotta run now, but I will finish this thought later.
People did see it coming. One of them was the wacky Republican candidate for President Ron Paul. The man has been talking about this for at least 20 years. Peter Schiff is another.

Just because you didn't hear anyone talking about it and trying to do something about it does not mean that 1000's didn't see it coming and attempt to take actions. As in one of your earlier comment about Bernie Madoff, Harry Markopolos complained for years to the SEC about Madoff.

What did they do? They ignored him.

Why? Because Madoff was a big fish in the investment world and Harry Markopolos was not. If you are interested in more about Harry read this.

The regulators were all hoping for a job with Madoff, just as ex-congress critters have a uncanny knack at turning up in the senior management of the companies they formerly regulated.

The accepted level of regulation will never be set to benefit the people. Never. As the people do not pay near as well as the corporations do. Fantasy is fantasy and nothing more. You cannot wish a corrupt system into virtuousness.

As for the ability of voting to make things better. Good luck the same corporations that you are so afraid of have been given carte blanche to count votes via their electronic voting machines.

The really naivety springs from people that cling to the idea that the system of government isn't bad, it's just that we just need to elect the right people. If only the right people were in office then everything would be A-Okay.
Here is an excellent example of how things work in the real world, which is not the world most people believe exist.

Take a look at this if you are truly interested in the how the system actually works.

I held some hope in the election of Obama, but he has surrounded himself with the same banking and political insiders that have floated around in the cesspool that is Washington for years.

Nothing will truly change as long as there is a profit to be made from it not changing. The common person has no chance when he allows himself to wallow in ignorance regarding how the world really works. And don't look to the media to provide answers as it is for the most part owned by the very people that benefit most from the status quo.
Nothing will truly change as long as there is a profit to be made from it not changing. The common person has no chance when he allows himself to wallow in ignorance regarding how the world really works. And don't look to the media to provide answers as it is for the most part owned by the very people that benefit most from the status quo.

Agreed. I'm not saying that I think you are flat wrong in your assessment of the problem. It is your idea of a solution that bothers me.
The regulators were all hoping for a job with Madoff, just as ex-congress critters have a uncanny knack at turning up in the senior management of the companies they formerly regulated.

Agreed.

The accepted level of regulation will never be set to benefit the people.

Which is why I am in favor of stronger, more equitable regulation.

You cannot wish a corrupt system into virtuousness.

And you cannot wish a corrupt system into virtuousness by taking away all rules of engagement. Do you really think that deregulation is going to make it better?

As for the ability of voting to make things better. Good luck the same corporations that you are so afraid of have been given carte blanche to count votes via their electronic voting machines.

That concerns me as well. There are a few DVD documentaries available on that.

The really naivety springs from people that cling to the idea that the system of government isn't bad...

The system is very bad, corrupt, and money and influence hold too strong a sway. Take away regulation, and it will be worse.
But how do you expect to bring about this idea of "stronger, more equitable regulation"?

The regulators are not going to all of a sudden say "Dallas could you please help us write this regulation.", not in a million years as the regulations have too much monetary value to be left to the unwashed to craft.

And I think you are really misunderstanding my position, I am not just in favor of removing the regulations, but drastically reducing the grip of government over the individual.

Your position is based on fear of the unknown, regulation never has and never will assure good behavior by anyone. However stripping away the protections from liability that it provides will do much in that regard.

If corporations were treated exactly like the individuals they are suppose to be, they would act much more responsibly if the wanted to stay in business and out of prison.
But how do you expect to bring about this idea of "stronger, more equitable regulation"?

Hehe, well, that's the $64,000 question, isn't it? I'm not saying I have all the answers, but I think that that is an ideal worth striving for. But I know it is an endless battle against corruption and selfishness.

...but drastically reducing the grip of government over the individual.

Okay, but how are we to even have a leg to stand on when we fight something like corporate pollution? If regulations aren't in place, and if the gov doesn't have a grip over the indvidual/corporation, then how are we to punish them? No regulation, no broken rules. No broken rules, nothing done wrong. Then, no liability.

...regulation never has and never will assure good behavior by anyone.

Correct, there are no guarantees. Laws against homicide do not prevent murder. But they give us a means of punishing the murderer. Of course, some get off scott-free, while others get convicted wrongly. So there are problems with the system, but that doesn't mean that we should toss it out lock, stock, and barrell.

However stripping away the protections from liability that it provides will do much in that regard.

Agreed. That is the problem with loopholes. They keep people from being liabel.

If corporations were treated exactly like the individuals they are suppose to be, they would act much more responsibly if the wanted to stay in business and out of prison.

You can't say we'll just drive them out of business, cuz a corp may pollute in one area, but export its goods to another area where the people don't see or care about the pollution at the source. So there is nothing to drive them out of business.
I'm back and wanted to finish commenting on your post:

Without regulation they would be open to direct civil action by those who are harmed by their actions. Under the current system if the SEC goes after a company for wrong doing the harmed parties gets no part of any fines levied.

Without regulation, how could they determine what is right and wrong then? The regulation sets the rules, doesn't it?

Now do you really think that they write laws that hurt or help their bottom lines?

Help their bottom lines, that's why we must always fight for our concerns and rights as well.

This conversation is a perfect example of throwing off the hocus pokus of religion and replacing it with hocus pocus of government.

It is not the same thing. Religion is superstition not founded in reality. Democracy is imperfect, but it is something much better than authoritarian religion.

Why is it that people trust those 1000's of miles away to look out for them, but they don't trust their next door neighbor?

I have not absolute trust in anyone, that is why we have a system of checks and balances, NGO oversight, the GOA, and other such groups, to help keep tabs on things. Regulation is part of that process.
Without regulation, how could they determine what is right and wrong then? The regulation sets the rules, doesn't it?

We already have laws that determine that don't we? If a company sells a substandard product or misrepresents a product they are guilty of fraud. Right?

If they create pollution that impacts your property they of committed criminal trespass.

Currently they can pollute your property to their hearts content as long as it is within the "allowable" limits, can't they? And what happens if they exceed the allowable limits and are fined for it? The government gets the fine, not the damaged party.

Do you think that is a good system?


It is not the same thing. Religion is superstition not founded in reality. Democracy is imperfect, but it is something much better than authoritarian religion.

So authoritarian government is better then authoritarian religion? What if the authoritarian religion promoted human rights for all races, creeds, colors and sexual orientations? Would government still be better?


I say that they are the exact same thing.

I agree that religion is superstition and not founded in reality, but democracy also is also not founded in reality and in there is a huge superstition that it can cure all socitail ill, which it never has nor ever will

Our form of government was never meant to be a democracy. It was intended as a Constitutionally Limited Republic.

See democracy is nothing more than mob rule. Majority against the minority.

The founders limited what the mob and government could do, but we have let government ignore the limited imposed on it, and run wild.

If democracy is the be all and end all then in your particular situation when there are many more heteros voters then gay voters on an issue when you lose you should support the will of the majority then. Right?

"Sorry but we voted and you lost, so deal" would become the tag line for the outcome.

Democracy is nothing more then two wolves and a sheep voting on what to eat for dinner.

To achieve true equality requires that people respect the life and property each other, and understand that each individual has the right to decide how it is used and disposed of without interference from any other person, group or government. This applies even if you do not agree with them as long as they are not directly harming you or your property.

It all comes down to this: As long as you do not intrude on the rights of another then do as you please. It is that simple. But most people want the power to control the actions of others when they don't agree with them

It is the root of prostitution laws, drugs law, zoning laws... again a almost endless list.

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