Intellectual Ammunition: The Real Cost of Government Regulation

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New Study: Government Regulation Robbed You of Millions of Dollars

Imagine living in an America where the average family was worth millions of dollars.

That’s what America could be today — if the federal government hadn’t increased its interference in the U.S. economy during the past 60 years.

That’s the stunning conclusion of a new study by economists John Dawson of Appalachian State University and John Seater of North Carolina State, published in the Journal of Economic Growth.

They compare U.S. economic growth with the growth in federal regulation since 1949, and conclude that federal regulations cost the average American household more than a quarter-million dollars in lost income — annually.

Today the average household brings in about $53,000 per year. Without federal regulations passed during the past sixty years, that same household would bring in a whopping $330,000 per year instead.

Put another way, the U.S. GDP Is $16 trillion. Without the federal regulations of the past sixty years, Dawson and Seater argue it would be about $54 trillion. Federal regulations since 1949 have thus cost America an astounding 75% of our potential growth.

With this loss of income, of course, comes a corresponding loss in health, education, environmental quality, safety, charity and much more.

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason Magazine, has written an excellent analysis and summary of the Dawson and Seater study entitled “Federal Regulations Have Made You 75 Percent Poorer: U.S. GDP Is Just $16 Trillion Instead of $54 Trillion.” Bailey’s article is highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about the study and the methodology it uses.

Bailey tests their hypothesis against various assumptions and finds that their basic argument holds — that federal regulations have cost Americans an incalculable amount of wealth.

But what about the value of the federal regulations? Haven’t citizens benefited from these regulations? The two economists argue that their findings “indicate that whatever positive effects regulation may have on measured output are outweighed by negative effects.”

Or, as Bailey says: “Whatever the benefits of regulation, an average household income of $330,000 per year would buy a lot in the way of health care, schooling, art, housing, environmental protection, and other amenities.”

Of course, it is extremely naïve to assume that regulations are designedwisely and dispassionately to benefit and protect citizens. Many economists have long noted that much regulation is not — despite the claims of regulators — aimed at protecting consumers, but rather at benefiting and enriching special interests, including the regulated businesses (which routinely use regulations to enrich themselves and injure their competition), politicians, and regulators. And regulation also often triggers unexpected costs and consequences.

If economists Dawson and Seater are right, government regulations have wiped out incalculable riches in the past sixty years, without remotely comparable benefits. This important new study deserves the attention of all who are interested in liberty.

New Book Reveals Danger of Militarized Police

For several years award-winning libertarian investigative journalist Randy Balko has been covering an extremely important story that few other journalists have touched: the increasing militarization of U.S. police and the danger this poses to American liberties.

Rise of the Warrior Cop is Balko’s brand-new book on the topic, and it is a chilling eye-opener. Anyone who cares about liberty should give it serious attention.

Balko shows how bad laws (the War on Drugs being a prime example), anti-liberty politicians, and America’s various “wars” against vague ill-defined enemies like crime, drugs, and terror have transformed America’s police force. The distinction between a cop and a soldier has been blurred to the point where they are often indistinguishable.

America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops: complete with military-style uniforms, tanks, other military weapons, military training and military-style tactics. Decades of police-state legislation have gutted fundamental constitutional protections like the Fourth Amendment. Rogue cops ignore or bypass our remaining legal protections.

Today’s police have arguably become an internal army — something the Founders feared and warned about. Indeed, according to Balko, police today have been conditioned to see the citizens they serve as an “other” — an enemy. In enforcing tyrannical laws like drug prohibition, they are actually engaging in a violent war against the people whose liberty and property they are supposed to protect.

America wasn’t supposed to be like this. And this isn’t an anti-cop book; good police will welcome it. It is a warning about how bad laws and bad politicians have transformed the police into something they were never supposed to be. Balko offers sensible suggestions to defuse and reform this situation.

Balko’s carefully researched book covers history, politics, and constitutional law. It is breathtaking and terrifying, and it is one of the most original libertarian books in years. Balko has exposed a grave danger to American freedom, and his argument deserves major national attention.

You can read a lengthy excerpt from Rise of the Warrior Cop for free, courtesy of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal website.

VIDEO: Who’s That Messing with Your Grill?

The Fourth of July has come and gone, but it’s still summertime, the perfect time for grillin’ and chillin’ and celebrating our liberty and independence and… but, hey, who’s that lurking around the grill?

“Ain’t no party like a nanny state party…”

Reason TV presents “Up in My Grill: 4th of July Rap” — the perfect summer music video, written and performed by the great comedian Remy.

Just one minute and twenty seconds long, hilarious, with a strong libertarian message. Highly recommended. Share with friends!

Ron Paul: U.S. Gov’t Has “Learned Nothing” from Disastrous Wars

“We left Iraq after a decade of fighting and the country is in far worse shape than when we attacked in 2003. After trillions of dollars wasted and tens of thousands of lives lost, Iraq is a devastated, desperate, and violent place with a presence of al Qaeda. No one in his right mind speaks of a U.S. victory in Iraq these days. We learned nothing from it.

“We are leaving Afghanistan after 12 years with nothing to show for it but trillions of dollars wasted and thousands of lives lost. Afghanistan is a devastated country with a weak, puppet government — and now we negotiate with those very people we fought for those 12 years, who are preparing to return to power! Still we learn nothing.

“Instead of learning from these disasters brought about by the interventionists and their failed foreign policy, the president is now telling us that we have to go into Syria! …

“We have attacked at least five countries since 9/11. We have launched drones against many more. We have deposed several dictators and destroyed several foreign armies. But, looking around at what has been achieved, it is clear: it is all irrelevant.”

– Ron Paul, excerpts from “What We Have Learned from Afghanistan,” Texas Straight Talk, June 24, 2013.

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About the author: James Harris

James Harris is the editor of the Liberator Online, the leading email newsletter of the liberty movement. His articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, and he has been a Finalist for the Mencken Awards, given by the Free Press Association for "Outstanding Journalism in Support of Liberty."