My three-part message today is this. First, Congress should treat the budget process as a means, not an end, and enact reforms accordingly. Second, given the fiscal challenges facing the country, now is not the time for minor tweaking. Instead, now is the time to think big and craft a process that drives legislators to produce credible and sustainable fiscal policy by constraining federal spending both today and tomorrow. Third, any reform should include effective enforcement mechanisms, preferably constitutional in nature, to prevent the new process from suffering the same fate as the current one.
Thirty-five years ago, President Jimmy Carter began an experiment to, in his words, “regulate the regulators” to “eliminate unnecessary federal regulations.” His experiment was to form, through the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within OMB to allow the president to gain control over the regulatory agencies. We have now had 35 years of experience to see if President Carter’s goals have been achieved. They have not.
Financial regulation should consist of clear, consistently enforced rules within which customers and financial institutions can freely interact. A well-functioning market enables people who need financing to obtain it efficiently and at a competitive price. Market forces reward financial companies that serve consumers well and discipline firms that fail to provide products and services in a form and at a price that consumers want.
Contrary to what you will hear from its supporters and beneficiaries, the Ex-Im Bank plays a marginal role in export financing—backing a mere 2 percent of US exports each year. The vast majority of exporters secure financing from a wide variety of private banks and other financial institutions without government interference or assistance. With US exports hitting record high levels, it is obvious that such financing is abundant and government assistance is superfluous.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—does not make another crisis less likely. To the contrary, it sets the stage for another, worse crisis in the future. Government regulation—from bank regulation to housing policy to credit rating agency regulation—played a key role in the crisis. These policies shaped market participants’ behavior in destructive ways. Dodd-Frank continues that pattern.
Policymakers who are interested in supporting the entrepreneurs and companies that will deliver the next generation of energy supplies and products should focus their attention on correcting the federal government’s hostile tax climate and dispense with the futile hopes of outsmarting the marketplace.
One reason it has been hard to address regulatory accumulation is the difficulty of identifying nonfunctional rules—rules that are obsolete, unnecessary, duplicative, or otherwise undesirable. An independent group or commission—not regulatory agencies—seems required to successfully identify nonfunctional rules.
Debates over regulatory process reform often take a distinctly partisan tone. But the fundamental conflict in the debate over regulatory process reform is not Republicans versus Democrats, liberals versus conservatives, or even business versus the public. It’s knowledge versus ignorance. Decision makers should choose knowledge over ignorance.
We should remain patient and continue to embrace permissionless innovation to ensure that the Internet of Things thrives and American consumers and companies continue to be global leaders in the digital economy.
Constitutional rules, unlike statutory or internal rules, are difficult to change. If written to cover the entire budget, avoid loopholes, and make waivers difficult to obtain, Constitutional rules can provide the enforcement mechanism that will help ensure that specific reforms to entitlements, defense, and other spending areas will not be undone by future Congresses.
Are all of the rules and regulations governing economic activity a product of central planning or legislation? Edward Stringham argues that much of what is orderly in the economy can actually be attributed to governing mechanisms devised and enforced by private groups and individuals.
Luigi Zingales, one of the world’s foremost thinkers on financial development and capitalism, will join Tyler Cowen for a wide-ranging, intellectual dialogue as part of the "Conversations with Tyler" series.
This book presents 17 oral histories of Hurricane Katrina survivors from four diverse New Orleans communities. The oral histories explore how these individuals, families, and communities began to rebuild after the devastation.