Friday, February 26, 2016

"Regulation for thee, but not for me." Democrats usually favor and Republicans usually oppose government regulation of business. What about government regulation of government? What about regulation of organizations receiving government funding? Many critiques of regulating business apply equally well to regulating governments and those they fund: bottlenecks caused by slow approval processes, uniform rules that don't make sense for every organization, and high compliance costs (e.g., man-hours spent learning the regulations and documenting compliance) that overly burden (and in some cases even prevent or destroy) small organizations and their innovative initiatives. "Small organizations" includes small departments with larger organizations.

I see these problems all too often in my job. I also recently saw how even the student organizations at my university are over-regulated. This blog post was provoked by Section 51.9361 of Subchapter Z of Chapter 51 of Subtitle A of Title 3 of the Texas Education Code.

For another anecdote, I've done a bit of mentoring of future middle-school and high-school math teachers. Once they start their training at the local public schools, they are unanimously dismayed by the emphasis they see given to preparing the students for state-mandated exams. (Home schooling in Texas, on the other hand, is hardly regulated at all. I highly recommend it.)

I have an abstract, general desire for smaller governments, but I expect defense, law enforcement, infrastructure, education, and research to be extensively funded by governments (but perhaps not directly provided by governments) from now until the end of the world. Therefore, quoting Robin Hanson,

This view suggests that being pro- or anti-regulation isn’t the same as being pro- or anti-government, and it suggests a possible left-right deal: reduce regulation in both private and public sectors. Have more trust in private competition to deal with the problems we leave to the private sphere, and in smart well-trained civil servants to deal with the problems we leave to the public sphere. And have less trust in lawyers, judges and rule-specialists of all sorts to fix our problems with more rules.

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