The law of lib­erty

Shrink­ing the reg­u­la­tory state means more free­dom for Amer­i­cans

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Ken Cuc­cinelli Ken Cuc­cinelli is the gen­eral coun­sel to the Free­dom­works Reg­u­la­tory Ac­tion Cen­ter and a for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral of Vir­ginia.

We are all fa­mil­iar with the law of grav­ity. It is a law of na­ture, and thank­fully, the law of grav­ity is not con­sid­ered to be open to de­bate. There are other laws of na­ture — im­mutable truths that can­not be avoided but that are not as well known.

Among these is the prin­ci­ple that when a gov­ern­ment de­rives its power from the peo­ple, such as in a con­sti­tu­tional repub­lic like the United States, ev­ery ex­pan­sion in the role and power of the gov­ern­ment au­to­mat­i­cally re­sults in a re­duc­tion in the power and free­dom of the peo­ple. This law of lib­erty is as un­avoid­able as the law of grav­ity.

There are three ways that gov­ern­ment in­creases its power: raising taxes, in­creas­ing spend­ing, and cre­at­ing more reg­u­la­tion.

It’s easy to see how taxes in­crease gov­ern­ment power and re­duce our free­dom. The more of our earn­ings the gov­ern­ment takes from us for its own pur­poses, the less we have left to spend on our­selves and our fam­i­lies, and the fewer choices we have in our lives. Fewer choices means less lib­erty.

Be­cause the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s spend­ing is not tied to its tax­ing power (it his­tor­i­cally spends more than it col­lects), spend­ing is not di­rectly re­lated to taxes.

There­fore, the more things our gov­ern­ment at­tempts to do — i.e., the more money it spends — the less there is for us to do. This crowd­ing out of cit­i­zens means less free­dom for them.

The third part in the law of lib­erty is per­haps even more ne­far­i­ous, be­cause it tends to be sub­tler. More reg­u­la­tions means the gov­ern­ment is or­der­ing us to do some­thing or re­strict­ing us from what we are oth­er­wise al­lowed to do.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has added well over 20,000 new reg­u­la­tions to Amer­i­can law, and the cost for con­sumers and busi­nesses to fol­low them is more than $100 bil­lion each year.

Just one of Mr. Obama’s pro­posed reg­u­la­tions — just one — would raise the price of cars sold in Amer­ica by over $2,000, and that is ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment’s own num­bers.

But are there other ways that these reg­u­la­tions af­fect us? The an­swer is, of course, “yes.”

The reg­u­la­tion re­quir­ing au­tomak­ers to dou­ble the fuel ef­fi­ciency of new cars and trucks to al­most 55 miles per gal­lon sounds great in con­cept, but the im­pact ex­tends well beyond $2,000 ex­tra on the sticker price. New cars for less than $15,000 will dis­ap­pear from the mar­ket, and the cars that are sold will be far less safe. Be­cause cars would have to be so se­verely stripped of pro­tec­tion, even Mr. Obama’s own En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­knowl­edge that more peo­ple will die in car crashes be­cause of the new reg­u­la­tion.

The law of lib­erty says that when the gov­ern­ment is­sues a reg­u­la­tion like this, cit­i­zens’ costs not only go up, but our choices are re­duced, i.e., we have less lib­erty — we are less free. That is ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing in this case: The reg­u­la­tion will elim­i­nate con­sumer op­tions, and more peo­ple will die.

A de­ter­mined re­duc­tion in reg­u­la­tory bur­dens by the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is the surest and fastest way to put our economy on the path to mean­ing­ful growth, cre­at­ing op­por­tu­nity for more Amer­i­cans. But such an ap­proach will also mean a mas­sive ex­pan­sion of lib­erty in Amer­ica — more choices for in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses — af­ter years and years of reg­u­la­tory growth.

It’s worth not­ing that growth of the reg­u­la­tory state and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing re­duc­tion of lib­erty have been a bi­par­ti­san af­fair. Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued over 14,000 reg­u­la­tions of its own.

No sin­gle ad­min­is­tra­tion, even if it lasts two terms, can undo 34,000 reg­u­la­tions, but if Don­ald Trump keeps his prom­ise to get rid of two reg­u­la­tions for ev­ery new reg­u­la­tion, he may be the only pres­i­dent in history to ac­tu­ally re­duce the reg­u­la­tory bur­den dur­ing his term. Such a re­duc­tion in gov­ern­ment power would re­sult in a mas­sive in­crease in free­dom for Amer­i­cans.

While lib­erty is hard to mea­sure, the Found­ing Fa­thers be­lieved it was worth risk­ing their lives, their for­tunes and their sa­cred honor to es­tab­lish Amer­ica on the foun­da­tion of lib­erty. It would do that legacy great honor if we would com­mit our­selves to ex­pand lib­erty in Amer­ica once again by sim­ply get­ting rid of as many reg­u­la­tions as pos­si­ble.

So the next time you hear how much a new reg­u­la­tion is go­ing to cost in dol­lars, don’t for­get about its cost in your free­dom be­cause the law of lib­erty is as un­avoid­able as the law of grav­ity.


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