Anti-Regulation Reaches Further Than Economics

It's more than economic.

It’s more than economic.

Mossman writes for Foreign Affairs:

He argues that regulatory overreach hinders commerce and stunts economic growth. Even if that’s true, he likely won’t be able to deliver what he promises by attacking the regulatory edifice alone. That’s because the companies that drive the U.S. economy are multinationals. They will still have to follow regulations elsewhere, which will mute the impact of killing those regulations at home.

I know I’ve made the mistake to take the pragmatist’s standpoint that “positive X won’t really affect circumstance Y”. It usually involves a subtle, deliberated argument that invokes an agreeable passivity: “you’re not wrong.”

Mossman’s attempt at normalizing Trump’s efforts to damage regulations – environmental, legal, economic, etc. – by adding that it won’t really do anything due to pre-existing regulations pushed set by other powerful governments again pushes and requests an act of passivity. Yes, Mossman’s examples of counter-corruption regulatory practices make his argument solid, but only effective in polishing a turd.

This turd has far-reaching ramifications that Mossman does not attempt to address as he is only speaking of the short-term economic future rather than the longer-term building of social and political norms. The effects of taking down useful and effective regulatory practices – even just for the United States – has global implications of historical and moral precedence.

If it is large news that the United States does not fulfill the Paris Agreement, why would it not be big news that the federal government actively seeks to destroy the foundations upon which the Paris Agreement could ever be accomplished?

This article was very broad strokes and did not focus on climate change or conservation, but it was highly implicated in the Trump Administration’s vague denigration of “regulation”. By successfully reducing regulatory practices w/r/t environmental impact, the United States sets not only a precedent for current and future leaders of other leading countries but also validates the impact that lobby money can have between a company like Shell and a powerful politician.

It can be easy to say that in practice, reducing oversight over corporate/industrial conduct would not affect the global economy much for better or worse, but it ignores the practice of money in politics, of global trends for and against regulation, and the practice of generational effects on culture. Anti-regulation begets anti-regulation over decades and decades.

This can be a setback for environmental conservation – because the amount of multinational corporations in the United States is in fact very small – and the domestic so many.

I’ll work from Mossman’s own words:

But what is common in each case is that cutting regulations in the United States doesn’t change anything outside its borders. Multinationals may account for just one percent of U.S. companies, but they also provided a third of economic growth. That means that the leaders in this sector are also the most exposed to the rules elsewhere and that attacking U.S. regulations will be of limited value.

In other words, ninety-nine percent of U.S. companies can be mobilized to take advantage of reduced regulations and recreate an era of waste and impactful political corruption. Today’s domestic business can be tomorrow’s multinational, living in an unregulated world that the Trump administration helped to build.

My pragmatist’s brain wants to scream about how regulations do cause a certain kind of inefficiency (my economic ideologies are filled with ECON 101), but regulations also set my oft-repeated word: precedence. That politicians, voters, and companies are willing to work with some inefficiency for a natural world less damaged – and more livable. The regulations allow the companies meander around its roots, create innovation in the face of scarcity. And if and when those regulations can be lifted, people should be confident that regression will not occur. It’s not that time yet.

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