Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Problem of Legislative Entrepreneurship

Samizdata has a brilliant post on the "distributed stupidity in government" (hat tip: Instapundit)

I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that there is now a crisis of excessive lawmaking in the West generally, and in the Anglo-Saxon world in particular. It is not that our political class is hell bent on tyrranny, impure and simple. It is more that they have become legislative entrepreneurs, so to speak. And just as a businessman who is delighted to make a fast buck selling mobile phones does not bother himself about the grief inflicted by railway travellers with mobiles on other railway travellers, so too, lawmakers who are "aiming" at one particular group of alleged wrongdoers have a tendency to neglect what you might call legislative collateral damage. The laws pile up, and the other legislators, the ones who you would hope would be sitting there solemnly trying to limit that collateral damage, neglect that duty, because they are too busy hustling through other little laws of their own, aimed at other preferred clutches of alleged wrongdoers. Laws go straight from legislative entrepreneurs to government regulators, without no intervening process of scrutiny that is worthy of that adjective.

Which means that government regulators are then tempted to mutate into what you might call regulatory entrepreurs. They cannot possible enforce all their laws, rules and regulations. There are not enough hours in the history of universe for that to happen. So, just like the legislative entrepreneurs, they also lose sight of the big picture (it having become too big to bother with) and decide for themselves which regulations to take seriously. How? Any way they please. In accordance with what rules? Whichever ones they decide to go with.

The author is basically discussing the unintended consequences of many laws (like the McCain-Feingold fiasco, which now seemingly may seriously impede bloggers' free speech if some regulatory hacks have anything to do with it). There is even a modest proposal to name the phenomenon:

I hereby propose the verb "McNab", to describe the process of innocent people being seriously screwed by crazy laws. As in: I've been McNabbed.

Read the entire post.

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