Monday, August 12, 2013

Hubris Is The New Tyranny

I believe regulatory reform is necessary, not because I agree with the 4% of Americans who believe they are too regulated, but because I believe any regulation needs periodic performance evaluation.

A month ago, I was listening to my grandsons play at a Washington lake, a mile as the crow flies from the border with Northern Idaho.  I read a lot and even more next to a Rocky Mountain lake.  Two things I was reading struck me that day.

One was the so-called North Carolina Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (referred to as House Bill 74,) the second was the just-released 2013 Economic Values Survey of Americans.  One does a disservice to regulatory reform, the other sheds light on the values we as Americans have on issues such as that.

One was driven by anecdotes and special interests, the other scientific and generalizable.

The first few pages of the North Carolina bill are indeed a step toward regulatory reform.  The other 60 pages more than justify a veto of the bill by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.

Stuffed with gross and vindictive overreactions to petty grievances, the bill violates the values of the vast majority of members of his party and very possibly even the state constitution while aggrieving every North Carolinian.

In my opinion, as a moderate Independent,  regulatory reform should periodically ensure regulations are being robustly executed and that the enforcement is not only even-handed but nimble.

Reform should also update and streamline regulations, purge them of pollution by special interests or political corruption and embed metrics to ensure cost-effectiveness.

Of greatest need regarding regulations is establishing a much more transparent, easy to understand and non-political process.  Much of what was dumped into HB 74 was to appease whiners and special interest lobbyists whose influence continues throughout the process of re-writing regulations.

Tragically, if signed, it comes at the expense of the general public and taxpayers.

Published last month, the 2013 Economic Values Survey is a much more scientific and accurate reflection of the way Americans think about things such as regulation.  Only 4% think we are too regulated by government.  I suspect even that percentage would not approve of what special interests dumped into legislation in my state.

The hubris that polluted the regulatory reform bill in North Carolina may be reflected in the survey,  which shows that roughly one-quarter (26%) of Americans say that people like them take absolutely no benefit from government.

This percentage zooms to close to half of Tea Party members and more than a third of Republicans and 35% of white working-class Americans.  Really?  They get no benefit from even such things as roads, schools, clean air and water?  Nothing?

One thing the majority of Americans agree on (by 6-in-10) is that government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor and take care of people who can’t care for themselves.  This holds consistent across all groups including white working-class Americans.

Millennials, by 7-in-10, even support “universal” healthcare insurance.Economic Orientation

Americans have concerns about Capitalism with 9% believing it is working well and 16% not at all.  Forty-five percent see it working somewhat well and 26% not too well.

Tellingly, Democrats think capitalism is working because it provides equal opportunity, while Republicans think it is works because it encourages personal responsibility.  Faith that it works well is consistent across affiliation, 56% Democrats, 54% Independents and 52% Republicans.

A real divide in America is that 69% of Democrats and 54% of Independents believe that one of the biggest problems in the country is we do not give everyone an equal chance.  Meanwhile, 58% of Republicans and 57% of Tea Party members think that really isn’t a problem.

Another divide is that 54% of Americans in general, including 62% of Democrats and 54% of Independents, believe that hard work and determination no longer guarantee success for most people…55% of Republicans and 56% of Tea Party members disagree.

As for overall work ethic, the percentage of Americans who think they  can get ahead without working hard and making sacrifices has fallen from 63% in 1999 to 56% in 2013.

Big majorities of Americans across all political persuasions, religious affiliation and ethnicity believe that promoting freedom, liberty and to live responsibly are very important guides to economic policy.

There is a gap however between Democrats and Independents and Republicans and Tea Party members about the importance of promoting equality and fairness when it comes to economic policy.

We generally vote by districts for elected officials but all of this suggests that we all probably need to vote as well with an eye to balancing the make-up of elected bodies in keeping with opinions among the electorate.

Apparently, it no longer goes without saying that governance is of all of the people, not just narrow interests.

It seems no longer likely that we can rely on elected bodies to vote based on the make up of electors which leaves them vulnerable to special interests and narrow ideologies.

Or we can become a true democracy and cut out representatives.  To me, when they study nuances with the objectives of doing what’s right, they perform an invaluable service.  It just seems like today, representative bodies are vulnerable to being high jacked by special interests that do not represent the majority of the people.

Maybe what we have to fear is no longer tyranny but hubris. 

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