Harry and the Super Committee

As the vaunted Super Committee grinds to a standstill, we need look no further than an unrelated comment from Prince Harry Reid to understand the reason why labeling something “super” does not necessarily make it so. While it is a significant leap to say that anything that spews from the mouth of the Senate Majority Leader is surprising, Harry attempted to outdo himself last week when he said, “While it’s proper to guard against and remove onerous regulations, and we need to do that, my Republican friends have yet to produce a single shred of evidence that the regulations they hate so much do the broad economic harms they claim.  That’s because there aren’t any.”

The intellectual class strikes again. Wow.

To those of us who lack the nuanced thinking of a seasoned liberal cerebral magician like the Prince, this comment unlocks the mystery of much of what we are seeing in Washington, and why the Super Committee never had a chance of succeeding. The absurdity of the Senator’s comment (in what actually appeared to be prepared remarks) makes a response very difficult. Where to start…where to start?

Ok, let’s start with the statement’s philosophical failings. It is clear to everyone (whose lens is not clouded by a completely malfunctioning left-wing ideology) that the “regulation industry” does in-fact create economic harm. No clear thinking person has ever concluded that regulation is effectively “free.” A coherent comment that Harry could have made is that while regulations are economically stultifying, they are potentially justified by other less measurable considerations. The best example of this may be environmental and pollution regulations. It clearly “costs” the economy a lot of money to create less pollution. But we are rewarded with cleaner air, better health, and the improved stewardship of our scarce resources. As a result, the regulation question is always “Where do we draw an appropriate line?” and not whether regulation is without negative economic consequence.

I can hear the liberal defense of the Senate Leader already, “Oh that there are trade-offs is what he really meant to say. He meant to say that there is no cost on a net-net basis.” No, it is very safe to assume that he really did not.

It is remarkable how the Left is feverishly painting conservatives as wanting to completely do away with all governmental functions and regulations. Nothing could be more distortive of the truth. The conservative philosophical reality, particularly with respect to regulations, is guided by the concern that conservatives have over how truly evil individuals and institutions can actually act. The reason that conservatives support limited government, and at the same time a reasonable set of regulations, is the same: many individuals and institutions are unethical and corrupt. The conservative reality is that bad people are born every day, and do not simply emerge from patterns of systemic oppression. And the government is not immune to this frailty, as is currently in daily evidence within the Obama Administration.

Regulations harm the economy in several very fundamental ways (to list a few of the most obvious):

1) The costs running the bloated and ineffective regulatory bureaucracies,

2) The costs to individuals and institutions in complying with the regulations,

3) The costs of defending oneself against the threat of regulatory actions and lawsuits,

4) The cost of paying for regulatory damages and fines,

5) The cost of inaction sponsored by the fear of arbitrary regulatory reprisal, and

6) The cost of ineffective regulation that does not prevent the intended abuses.

Regulations are critically important to any functioning system. To say that there is no economic harmed caused by them is evidence of the underlying truth. Isn’t there are regulation as to the required brain power of Senators? How many of our elected representatives have an IQ of less than 100? Any good liberal should want to fix that problem!

But let’s go back to the connection between Harry’s comments and the Super Committee. The liberals on the Committee want an economic system run and controlled by the Federal Government. If you could get to the bottom of their economic value systems, most of them would undoubtedly desire a Federal Government budget that would control half of the overall economy, as they see in Europe. Conservatives would like that number to remain where it has been over the last many decades, at less than 20% (and lower than the current 25%). With regulations being ostensibly free, liberals can only see an asymmetric benefit from them, and more is therefore always better than less. So regulations serve the liberal interests of both increasing the size of government and creating a system of nearly limitless improved outcomes – all without any real economic trade-offs.

When attempting to argue, debate, and compromise with another party that believes one plus one equals giraffe, the results are infinitely knowable in advance. What is the compromise position between “two and giraffe?” There isn’t one. Thus we have the current stalemate, and failure of the Super Committee.

As long as we have leaders in Washington whose views are so totally disconnected from reality, we will be on this same ugly path. How can you reach any level of compromise with such radical ignorance? It is remarkable that the current Senate leader ever became the Senate leader in the first place. What does that say?

We simply must elect better leaders, those with at least some clue as to how the world really works. Starting with reality goes a long way.


About the Author

Mr. Nygaard is a Managing Director with Atticus Advisers, a marketing consulting firm in Atlanta, Georgia.


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  1. Justin | Nov 24, 2011 at 10:36 am | Reply

    Well said! In general the rein of Harry Ried is one of the most confounding things in modern political history. I understand most Democratic positions, and even some liberal positions, but this guy doesn’t make any sense to me as leader, thinker, or politician.

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