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Responding to a Critic

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We proponents of markets must improve our skills at communication.  This improvement involves, among other tasks, getting a better understanding of the presumptions of those with whom we disagree.

One of these presumptions comes out frequently during discussions of regulation. If a market proponent argues against regulation by government, he or she is heard by many on the other side of the political spectrum as arguing against regulation.

The presumption is that only government can regulate, or at least regulate effectively.

All honest disagreements are over the effectiveness of regulation based upon centralized bureaucracies and statutes versus regulation based upon common-law processes and economic competition.  Both are methods of regulation.  The serious debate is not whether regulation is good or bad – no sane person wants a world without regulation.  The serious debate is over the best form of regulation.

I should have done a better job of communicating in my earlier posts in which I argue that the USA can do without the FDA.  This blogger [2]  interprets me as opposing regulation.  I emphatically support regulation [3].

But the regulation that I support is not by a centralized bureaucratic agency.  The regulation I prefer — because I believe it to be stricter and better for consumers — is the regulation achieved through largely decentralized law-making and enforcement processes – the law of property, contract, tort, and crime – and economic competition.

My opinion (backed by a fair amount of professional study and research) is that government regulators suffer many problems that don’t as severely afflict market regulation.  Among these problems are:

         capture by special-interest groups (including not only the regulated industries, but the employees of the regulatory agency, among others);

         inadequate knowledge and incentives to tailor the application of regulations to suit the different needs of different people;

         a displacement of the many nuanced, decentralized private methods for keeping suppliers honest and responsive to the desires of consumers

As Bob Higgs rightly says in his comment [4] to this post, the FDA’s track record of saving lives is less than inspiring.

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