Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Would you like your regulation to be public or private?


I have to wonder what the GOP is talking about when they go on and on about reducing regulation. For example, during the prohibition years, there was no effective way to regulate the alcohol industry since it all went dark. Because there was no 3rd-party referee to handle grievances, the competitors resorted to gangland violence. Legalizing the business and taxing it brought it into the light and made it easier to regulate as well as providing relief for innocent bystanders. Are they suggesting that we return to a prohibition-era economic environment that is "free of government regulation"?

I'm not aware of any GOP politician that has acknowledged that when you remove government regulation, private law and regulation come into play (if you've seen one do that, let me know). Consider for a moment the recent ruling from the Supreme Court that permits corporations to eliminate the right to class action lawsuits in their terms and conditions for use of their services. That ruling has emboldened corporations to introduce their own forms of regulations. This is particularly evident among cellular phone companies with their data caps, sharing plans, and customer data sharing arrangements. Net Neutrality? Totally neutered.

In this context, I have to ask, which source of regulation does the GOP prefer, government regulation or private regulation? Either one can become quite onerous if we let them. The difference is that I can vote out the guys in government who set policy. I can't do that with corporations. In corporations, the members of the board of directors make decisions that set policy. Even if I own stock, I don't really get a say in their decision making process. Worse, corporations are a creature of government, below everything and everyone else. At least they should be.

Several Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rulings have turned our relationships with corporations upside down. The first ruling came in 1890 when the SCOTUS recognized corporations as persons. Second, the SCOTUS has ruled that corporations can make unlimited political contributions without disclosure because money is speech. The third came with a SCOTUS ruling preempting a state law that prohibited the exclusion of class action suits in contracts. Don't even get me started on patents.

The GOP lacks complete sincerity and honesty if they continue to omit private regulation in debates of public policy on the subject of regulation. I wonder if they will ever bring it up.
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