Business & Regulation

It may be taken as a fact that anyone who starts a business or takes over running one believes they know the best way to run it, what needs to be done to make it profitable & what can be avoided or ignored to save expenses.

Think about that a moment — why would any business person like regulations? Well, unless they are running a big enough business to have the influence to be sure the regulations cause disadvantages to their competition, they don’t.

In the case of the truly big business, the more complex the regulations are, the better, as they can afford lawyers to point out all the loopholes hidden in the complexities — or lobbyists to be sure the loopholes are inserted as they desire. Medium & small business get stuck with compliance costs & enforcement actions that the bigs can mostly walk away from. (Despite the large fines that make the news media accounts, these are small potatoes to the truly big businesses.)

Any time you hear a business person say regulations stiffle business, what they are really saying is the regulations are keeping them from doing what they want to do or causing them to do things they don’t want to do. That being the point of regulations to begin with, it seems like a Good Thing if they are, at least in many cases.

Let the for-private-profit corporation make a case in public for why they should be allowed to do what the regulations prohibit or not do what they require, then we can see about revisions to the rules. Just because a business person is opposed to the rules, that does not automatically mean the business person is right.

Any time you hear a developer say that zoning is stifling growth, that just means it is working, as the entire point of zoning is to limit growth and redirect it into forms that the community (through its political leaders) have chosen as better than the profit-only marketplace would prefer. Zoning is meant to be like the gardener’s shears, pruning away unruly growth to keep the plant within due bounds — and overall healthier than it would be if were allowed to run riot.

The current uproar over the Uniform Development Code here in Memphis is a prime example of this — citizens who want less sprawl & more rational development of the core city fighting to keep the regulations in place against developers seeking to maximize their own short-term profits. City & county governments are far too likely to err on the side of development over preservation or smart growth already. Weakening the Code would just make their surrender to the developers even more blatant & obvious to all.

For-private-profit business (especially for short term profit, which is where American business has been for at least the past 4 decades) is no less restricted a mindset than that of the religious cloister. It is its own form of tunnel vision to reduce every value to money and power, just as it is to reduce every action to sin or righteousness.

All of the problems that libertarians and reactionaries (who now mistakenly call themselves conservatives, in defiance of the true meaning or history of that term) see in public government bureaucracies exist in for-private-profit businesses, as well, especially the big businesses that dominate most industries.

Even so, that does not mean that CEO of dysfunctional-except-for-making-profit Corportion-X should be heading up dysfunctional-department-Y of the government, or that Board Member Z should be elected as Senator or Rep Z, nor as President or Governor. There are different stakeholders involved & different mindsets, goals & purposes.

It is long past the point where reasonable people should have realized that being good in business does not mean you automatically know how to govern in a civic or political organization. You may be the best business person on the planet, yet inexperienced in the give and take of competing legitimate interests that government must seek to manage.

So, this former Libertarian now finds himself siding with the politicians versus the business people, at least sometimes. I invite you to join me on this side when you can — and I will join you on the other side when I can. Let’s just keep a clear division between them. That’s all I ask.


About Tim Gatewood

55+, male, widowed (May 2016). Mobile notary public and signing agent, freelance writer, and ordained minister. Science fiction and fantasy fan, willing servant to cats, avid reader and collector of books and other stuff. Please see my websites (including this blog and others) for more info on me and what I think about the issues of the day.
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