American Regulatory Overload Courtesy Of Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn’s new book After America: Get Ready for Armageddon is one of the best books I’ve read in years — and I read a lot of books.

My interview with Steyn will FINALLY be ready to go tomorrow and next week, I’ll put out a “best of” selection of quotes from the book, which will be more difficult than you’d think because there are so many quotations in the book worth highlighting. There are also a few extraordinary excerpts that are a little too long to be included in a quotes article that still deserve to get out to an even wider audience. One such excerpt is this one about over-regulation.

“Ignorantia juris non excusat” is one of the oldest concepts of civilized society: ignorance of the law is no excuse. But today we’re all ignorant of the law, from John Conyers and the guys who make it down to li’l ol’ you on the receiving end. How can you not be? Under the hyper-regulatory state, any one of us is in breach of dozens of laws at any one time without being aware of it. In a New York deli, a bagel with cream cheese is subject to a food-preparation tax, but a plain bagel with no filling is not. Except that, if the clerk slices the plain bagel for you, the food-preparation tax applies. Just for that one knife cut. As a progressive caring society, New York has advanced from tax cuts to taxed cuts. Oh, and, if he doesn’t slice the plain bagel, but you opt to slice it in the deli, the food preparation tax also applies, even though no preparation was required for the food.

Got that? If you’ve got a deli, you better have, because New York is so broke they need their nine cents per sliced bagel and their bagel inspectors are cracking down. How does the song go? “If I can make it there/I’ll make it anywhere!” If you can make it there, you’re some kind of genius. To open a restaurant in NYC requires dealing with the conflicting demands of at least eleven municipal agencies, plus submitting to twenty-three city inspections, and applying for thirty different permits and certificates. Not including the state liquor license.

…In such a world, there is no “law” — in a sense of (a) you the citizen being found by (b) a jury of your peers to be in breach of (c) a statute passed by (d) your elected representatives. Instead, unknown, unnamed, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats determine transgressions, prosecute infractions, and levy fines for behavioral rules they themselves craft and which, thanks to the ever more tangled spaghetti of preferences, subsidies, entitlements, and incentives, apply to different citizens unequally. But tyranny is always whimsical. You may be lucky. You may not catch their eye — for a while. But perhaps your neighbor does, or the guy down the street. No trial, no jury, just a dogsbody in some office who pronounces that you’re guilty of an offense a colleague of his invented. — 83-84

People ask “why we don’t make things in America anymore.” Why has so much manufacturing gone overseas? Why doesn’t the economy grow as quickly as it did before? Why hasnt the World Trade Center been rebuilt yet? Well, America’s regulation overload is a big part of the reason why — but when you try to point that out and cut back it’s, “You’re in the pocket of the rich! You’re putting people at risk! We need more regulations, not less!”

The truth is if we cut 500 regulations for every new one we put in place, it would only make the country better off.

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