The law of liberty
Shrinking the regulatory state means more freedom for Americans
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.