Saturday, June 27, 2009

A rare bit of actual thinking from me. (Back to nonsense later.)

With the collapse of capitalism-- or so it seems-- most people are now changing their attitudes towards government and regulations. For years and years it was "Let's let businesses police themselves and the free market will sort it out." Then, it turned out that the free market was not so great at sorting things out... and so now people are saying things like "Government needs to crack down on everything. We need to regulate all businesses... even that guy who plays the piccolo on the street corner for dimes tossed into a cop. We need a Federal Bureau of Him."

But that's not the answer, either. The real answer is to use something that's short in America today: Some moderation and wisdom. Luckily, I've got a plethora of both. Here's what we need to do: let the free market regulate itself, and use government to even the playing field.

That sounds simple, and it is. We simply let businesses be in business, and we use regulation to outlaw only those things that are or should be verboten -- like fraudulent transactions, false advertising, cigarettes, and the like. Then, we also have the government require information -- REAL information, not the fake truth in lending stuff that doesn't tell you anything. Government can require that businesses not use deceptive packaging, that they tell you in plain english what chemicals are in the things you're using, and whether you're going to be able to actually pay that mortgage. It can require that promises (like we'll refinance you in 6 months) be put in writing.

Most businesses are, in fact, honestly run, or want to be. The pressures of competition can cause some to cut corners, and when that happens, the industry itself will want to be the first to police itself, both to reassure itself and its customers that it's business is honest. This article from Generational Equity has an excellent set of tips on how to do things like that. Only where self-policing doesn't protect free competition and fair competition should the government step into regulate.

In short, we don't need a "Deparment of That Guy," or anarchy -- but a wise mixture of both.

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