Reform, reform, reform, and deform
Oct 23, 2013 / 5:00 am
We need to reform the Senate! We need to reform our provincial trade policies! We need to reform environmental policies! Reform, reform, reform: this tendency is built out of the nature of our current political system. The various political parties seize any scandal or government error and proclaim that they have the solution. These fixes, of course, only serve to make the system more convoluted and simply increase the size of an already unwieldy government.
Unfortunately, this has been the case since, well, the beginning of liberal democracies. The root cause of it all, though, stems from our current trust that the 'system' can plan perfection, that we can regulate human behavior, and that—if we try hard enough—we can make laws that will make everything a-okay. Realistically, that isn't possible. At all. Planning out the 'system,' beyond the most rudimentary of laws, creates a convoluted network of unintended consequences that have grown far too robust to be sustainable.
Don't believe me? Try to start a small business in Canada. Now—wait for it, wait for it—here come the regulatory boards! These boards, mostly comprised of bureaucrats who have very little knowledge of the field they're overseeing, are deeply punishing to businesses, both large and small. The critical issue is that these bureaucratic fiefdoms have a few fundamental flaws and consistently plague our economy. To analyze this further, let's examine the issue through the prism of a very basic business, like a restaurant.
1. Government bureaucracies require disorder to exist: most of these institutions, primarily funded by the government (aka taxpayers), are meant to protect the citizenry. They require a health code, rules, regulations, rigorous paperwork, employ thousands of processors, hundreds of field operatives, and they construct shiny buildings that must be populated with, well, paper, people, and boardrooms. Once all of this has been established: what happens when every restaurant in their jurisdiction is meeting all of the proper codes and everyone is safe? Well, they make up new rules. They make requirements more rigorous. They further punish small businesses and continue to grow larger and costlier.
2. Regulatory boards to not voluntarily shrink: as an extension of the first point, these boards will never throw their hands in the air and say: "We're done, everything's good, the system works, now fire us all and demolish this building—or, turn it into a library!" It does not happen. The buildings get bigger, the on-site operatives grow in size, and so do the amount of paper-pushing bureaucrats. That means there is more of a burden on the taxpayer to fund these programs, and more people breathing down the necks of small business owners who have no defense from this type of regulation.
3. Big businesses do not care, at all: most people assume that the government is meant to police huge corporations and stop them from taking advantage of the citizens. This should be true, however it currently is not, but that is beside the point. In the case of restaurants, who do you think suffers more from rigorous regulations; Uncle Joe's Family Diner or McDonald's? Huge corporate entities can very easily fulfill all the needs of these regulatory boards and, more often than not, lobby for special treatment or exclusive exemptions. That means government bureaucracies, which we are paying for, are crushing small businesses, the ones that are supposed to fuel the ‘middle-class’ and uphold our country's economy.
4. The chain reaction is a destructive nightmare: what are the results of these first three steps? Small businesses begin to vanish because the burden of taxes, ridiculous regulations, and government oversight has forced them to either raise prices or close up shop in response. As a result, what do we, the avid consumer, see? We see a corporate takeover of the small business market. What is our response? We decide to give the government even more power to regulate these corporations, which happily pay for the inflated regulatory costs—passing them on to the consumers—and continue on as if nothing has happened.
The whole process is a dangerous cycle, and it is all built out of the idea of reform. The root problem, really, is that these faulty programs exist at all in the first place. If we need to discuss how businesses are regulated before every single election cycle, with each party offering its own iteration of reform, maybe we just need to stop policing small businesses into nonexistence?
We have Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Urbanspoon, and every other social media platform to voice our concerns. Why does the government need to police restaurants that are unclean or unsafe? If I visit a restaurant I think is dirty, I'll write about it online and spread the word. If enough people do this, the restaurant loses customers and goes out of business. How many government officials would it take to oversee and regulate this? Zero. How much would it cost the taxpayer? Nothing.
The call to 'Reform!' is really just a call to add more layers to an already ridiculously over-inflated government. If we ask the government to shrink, to get out of the way, and let the citizens take care of business, we'd have a lot less debt, a lot less taxes, a lot less bureaucracy to deal with, and, finally, a heck of a lot more business.
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