Policy Digest: Regulatory State Edition
Argentina or bust?
I had a strong sense of déjà vu when I read this Wall Street Journal editorial about Argentina’s harassment of a U.S. printing company for closing a plant in Buenos Aires. Why did this sound so familiar? Of course! Here at home, the Obama administration has been damning corporations as “unpatriotic” for moving to countries with lower tax burdens. While the rhetoric about “corporate inversions” in this country is a bit less unhinged than what Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchener said about the printing company — she accused it of “terrorizing the population” and threatened to nationalize it — the message to businesses is ultimately the same: Bow down, pay up, and shut your mouths. But don’t dare leave, because, although we hate you, deep down, we know we depend on you for our survival.
Extortion by any other name
Speaking of thuggish officials, in “The Criminalization of American Business,” The Economist highlights the rise of criminal prosecutions of companies for committing obscure regulatory crimes. Several companies in recent years have chosen to pay staggering fines rather than trying to fight against charges brought under vague and byzantine regulations. “America can hardly tut-tut at the way China’s justice system applies the law to companies in such an arbitrary manner when at times it seems almost as bad itself.” Indeed.
I’ve written about this issue
Ayn Rand often pointed out that one way to control people is to make them feel guilty, and nothing beats a web of non-objective laws that people violate constantly for accomplishing that purpose. But it also helps if bureaucrats can monitor our activities. Holman Jenkins discusses the ubiquity of cameras and their impact on our relationship to government here.
I hate to end on a sour note, so the good news for the week is that the Simpson family just got a puppy. Of course, this being California, there’s always some bad news, which is that the legislature just voted to ban single-use plastic grocery bags (if you don’t see the connection, ask a dog owner). Fortunately, I can send the kids to the park down the street to stock up on the bags that the county helpfully provides to all dog owners at taxpayer’s expense.
I don’t think they’ve installed any cameras there yet.