Why Corporations Love Regulation
The tsunami-driven crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in March reinforced Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson’s conviction that governments the world over must devise more regulations and enforce them with greater vigor. The Fukushima disaster, following hard upon the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the financial panic in 2008, should be enough, Meyerson insisted, to disabuse us of our “deeply rooted faith” in “our own infallibility.” Such “systemic failures” demonstrate the need for “active, disinterested governmental regulation” as a corrective for “the human capacity for mistake and self-delusion, not to mention avarice and chicanery.”
Meyerson’s view is a perfect distillation of the widely held belief that the cure for the ailments of regulation is, simply, more regulation. This quasi-theological commitment has been integral to American liberalism since the Great Depression. A leading New Deal theoretician, the legal scholar James Landis, argued that if American government were to meet its responsibilities in the Industrial Age, it would have to break free from the constraints of the Constitution’s checks and balances and enter a new epoch in which the administration of public policy would not only be distinct from politics, but also steadily supplant it. In his influential 1938 book, The Administrative Process, Landis urged us to dispose of “the casual office seeker” and entrust government to “men of professional attainment” who “envisage governance as a career.” In this way, “armies of men dedicated to the idea of justice” would fashion and enforce public policy.
About the Author
William Voegeli, a senior editor at the Claremont Review of Books, is the author of Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State (Encounter) and a visiting scholar at Claremont McKenna College’s Salvatori Center.