Words are imprecise, funny things. They seem to mean something concrete, but often that meaning is lost in confusion, overused, underused, or infused with connotations that, over time, shift and transmogrify to the point that we are back to the Tower of Babble (Babel). Few understand each other in the Tower, even though we live together.
Two issues that are front and center now illustrate my point. The regulation of the financial markets and deep-sea oil drilling have failed recently, so reasonable people might believe that we need new and better regulation.
Free-market people resist this flow. No, they cry, financial regulation caused the markets to meltdown. Government is the problem, not the solution. And, no, artificial liability laws encouraged risky oil drilling, in effect.
I agree. Yet these lines of reasoning don’t seem to be winning the day. In part, it doesn’t win because it requires the listener to patiently sit through the secondary and tertiary effects of some kinds of regulation, and the many vices of crony capitalism.
Here’s a modest proposal for free marketeers: Rather than saying we’re against, why not say “for” — for appropriate, workable, meaningful regulation? Rather than shielding bad actors, why don’t we use more direct means to regulate those who endanger us economically and environmentally?
I humbly submit some new terminology to get the ball rolling: “Direct regulation.”
Do I have any takers?