When government gets too big

Brian Heskamp and Brian Heskamp

It all started in Dr. Ludd’s Political Science 420/520 class: Administrative Law. The question of where do you fall on a scale of political ideology in terms of governmental regulation of society was posed in Ludd’s typical Socratic question type lecture.

Needless to say, I was selected (involuntarily, I might add) to answer it. As an independent, I do not usually like to say “Democrat” or “Republican,” but being forced to; I answered Republican and was asked to explain why.

I answered that, in general, I felt that government ought not be viewed as the ultimate “problem-solver” because that necessarily means that individuals are not capable of solving their own problems. I said that I generally favored de-regulation.

“Well coach,” Dr. Ludd said, “did you play sports?” Oh no, I thought, here it comes.

“Yeah,” I answered rather timidly, “soccer and tennis.”

“Now,” he continued, “do you suppose that the referees on the field were necessary? Do you think that the line judges are a good thing? Would people play fair if the referees weren’t there or just beat the hell out of each other?”

“Uh…I guess they are good” was the best I could reply, and that ended that. Funny how pressure goes to your head.

In any case, the discussion got me thinking, and a bit later the realization dawned on me that I was never arguing for Anarchy — no Republican would. Rather, I was arguing for less regulation in society.

By implication, and to go back to the sports analogy, suppose there were 5 referees on the field, 8 line judges, a special ref to check your cleat length every time you come off the bench and another to grab your crotch to see if you are wearing a cup. Now, would anyone even bother to play the game — or would it be too much hassle?

What I am talking about here is over-regulation in many spheres of society.

Consider the small business entrepreneur. Does over-regulation have a “chilling effect” on small business start up’s?

It is no secret that any business, before it is even begun, must comply with myriad federal, state and local statutes and ordinances, zoning restrictions, and the host of rules and regulations promulgated by regulatory agencies and departments (EPA, FDA, Department of Labor, etc.) that apply to their specific type of business.

I have never started a business myself, but I would wager a month’s earnings (which, by the way, isn’t much) that a great majority of business owners feel that they are over-regulated.

We are regulated from birth to death and everywhere in between. You are not officially alive until you have a birth certificate or dead until the death certificate is issued. You cannot have a drink unless you are 21 but you may vote when you are 18. Your car shall pass an emissions standard test every other year (depending on what county you live in) or you cannot drive it. Your canoe must be registered with the Department of Natural Resources or you will pay a fine for using it.

This all must sound rather crass, but where will it end?

I shall conclude with a question worth a minute (or two) of thought that has great implications for society and how you answer it should influence your vote, whatever it might be.

In American society today, where should the balance between liberty (or freedom from regulation) and order/security (or regulation) fall?