Laura McKelvie: Regulations are needed
January 27, 2013
In his "Grass-roots pushback" column in Friday's Steamboat Today, Rob Douglas ponders what facets of our lives are not governed by laws and regulations. I can think of vast swaths of American life that are in no danger of over regulation, including Mr. Douglas' freedom to write columns on whatever topic he chooses.
How about the freedom to worship as you choose or the ability to leave the country or pick your own career? Does the government now dictate with whom we can date or socialize and what we can see on the Internet? Is the right to a trial by jury such a minor freedom that we don't even appreciate it anymore? Those are some basic rights that I think Mr. Douglas takes for granted when he speaks of over regulation.
Has Mr. Douglas thoroughly thought out what a deregulated world looks like? My guess is no. For more than three years, I lived in a country with fewer regulations: Mexico. I can say from experience that although our government may be bloated, what we have in the U.S. is a blessing.
In Mexico, people are free to do a lot of things that are regulated or illegal in the U.S. The result is a citizenry that, on the whole, has little compunction to follow rules, which affects everything from driving habits to classroom attendance and from prescription drug abuse to politics.
This view is held not only by me, but also by many Mexican students who I taught. (For more information about the dangers of a lawless society that doesn't have jury trials, read Jorge G. Castañeda's excellent book, "Mañana Forever?")
I felt very unsafe there and not because of drug cartels. My main fears came from daily traffic. Many states in Mexico are free to avoid those pesky regulations requiring driving tests to get a license, so most drivers are clueless concerning traffic laws. Even taking a bus is risky because the bus companies do not regulate their drivers.
My husband and I were on buses that hit cars and a bus hit a friend of mine because its driver was drunk. The bus company didn't pay for the damages to her car, and the law offered no support. Traffic might seem like a silly concern, but as an article in The Economist pointed out, traffic accidents cause more deaths in Mexico than drug-related violence. Is this the kind of "free" society Mr. Douglas wants?
I admit that the litigious culture of the U.S. can be tedious, and I agree that not all regulations are good ones. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater and call regulations bad in and of themselves. Americans still have plenty of freedoms, and it would do us all some good to realize that not all "freedoms" are healthy.
Mr. Douglas and others often claim that they are only trying to return to the original state of liberty our founders envisioned. In response to that argument, I invite those who dislike regulations to live a few years in a large, modern country with a weak federal government. I highly doubt they would return to the U.S. with the same anti-regulation views.