Excessive regulations won’t build a perfect world

IN A VISE: Businesses are feeling the squeeze from excessive regulations.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

The growth of the regulatory state is like a constrictor snake, squeezing the life out of present businesses and the dreams of future entrepreneurs.

Larry Nobles, who owns a child-care center with his wife Marjorie in the central Mississippi city of Petal, told the Mississippi Board of Health at its Wednesday meeting that when he started his business in 1973, regulations took up three pages. Now those regulations are more than 200 pages.

That’s the equivalent of nearly five pages of new regulations per year.

The Nobles take the 90-minute trip to Jackson every time there’s a meeting on regulations. They don’t have a choice if they want input on new regulations that can adversely affect their business.

That’s just one state agency issuing dictates that demand compliance from business owners. Another is the Mississippi Board of Cosmetology, which has a rulebook numbering 103 pages.

State agencies aren’t the only compliance hurdle businesses must address. There are local governments and, of course, the federal government and its alphabet soup of different agencies. Sometimes these regulations are nonsensical. Some are contradictory. Some are up to the interpretation of the inspecting agency. Today’s compliance can be tomorrow’s noncompliance.

This costs business owners time and money to remain in the good graces of the agencies that can hit them with huge financial penalties or put them out of business entirely.

It’s all because regulatory agencies are constantly chasing a utopian world where no one is harmed by any act of a business and everything is perfectly safe with no environmental damage or hurt feelings. In Dante’s “Inferno,” the angels who sat on the sidelines in the great war in heaven between God and Satan were forced to forever chase a banner just beyond their reach while being stung by wasps and hornets. Our regulatory morass is chasing a similar, unattainable goal.

A great example is the Environmental Protection Agency, which was tasked with the cleanup of the air and water pollution that had spoiled the quality of life. Ninety percent of the goal was achieved, as the air is now cleaner and rivers, streams and lakes are relatively clean again.

Think that’s the end of the story? Guess again.

The EPA is cranking out rules that will cost business billions, from new rules on greenhouse gases, to the Waters of The United States to ozone. From 2000-2013, the agency drafted 17 rules with estimated compliance costs of more than $90.3 billion. The rest of the federal government issued 13 rules worth a total of $19.1 billion.

Even the Endangered Species Act, which is supposed to save dying, cuddly critters from the jaws of greedy businessmen (insert the plot of every Hollywood movie on the environment here), is growing as more “endangered” species are found. The EPA is even expanding the habitat of endangered species because of their potential movement due to climate change.

The cost to business imposed by these rule-making agencies, now largely bereft of congressional oversight, is massive and will impact every product and service you buy. What about the chilling effect it could have on tomorrow’s entrepreneurs? How many will simply look at the regulatory morass, see the Gordian Knot can’t be snipped and just shrug their shoulders and pass?

The regulators, in the case of safety-based mandates, are chasing the last incident. Unfortunately, you can’t fight the newest war with the means and methods you used to prosecute the last war.

The aims of regulators are often good, but results are often dreadful. We can no more regulate our way to a perfectly safe and healthy society than we can build the Hoover Dam out of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.

Not that we could build a Hoover Dam in today’s climate.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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