Regulations do not make markets safer, more efficient, or work better for consumers in anything but a superficial sense. Regulation only provides “confidence” and assurance that only leads to crisis. Regulation does not produce harmonization of markets or insurance for consumers.Regulation simply does not work. It is designed with hopes of success, but with no mechanism to achieve this success. We hope for efficiency, but what we get is bureaucracy. We hope for effectiveness, but what we get is rules and red tape that serves neither producer nor consumer. We hope for safety, but what we eventually get is chaos.
This is from Austrian economics Professor Mark Thornton at the Mises Institute.
Professor Thornton cites as examples of the highly regulated financial industry that nurtured Bernie Madoff's Ponzi and the housing bubble. Yes, Washington had “over 12,000 bureaucrats devoted to financial regulation”.
Professor Thornton also mentions stringent regulations on the oil industry which led to the BP Gulf oil spill and to the Enron scandal.
Professor Thornton concludes: (italics original, bold mine)
The regulator is portrayed as a public-spirited specialist. They know the public good. They know the results that are expected. They know how to bring about those results. It is as simple for them to regulate their corner of the economy as it is for Emeril Lagasse to make crab cakes or for Martha Stewart to make a simple doily.The public is told that regulators do not cause problems; they prevent them. They police the economy. They are the watchmen that have been endowed with the wisdom, ability, and selfless devotion to the public good.There are indeed many people who work as government regulators that are very smart and well-trained that have public spirit and the public good in their hearts. There are also plenty of cads and knuckleheads that work as regulators.The problem with government regulation is that you cannot fine-tune the regulations: nor can you perfect the regulatory work force in such a way to make regulation work in anything but a superficial way. The truth is that regulation instills confidence in the public so that they let down their guard and makes them less cautious while at the same time distorting the competitive nature of firms in the marketplace.After every economic crisis there are calls for new regulations, more funding, and more controls. Economic wisdom dictates that we be ready to contest those calls when the next crisis of the interventionist state occurs.