One of the great triumphs of the Trump administration, if his promoters are asked, is the cutting of regulations. We are treated to stories of how Trump has rolled back EPA regulations. About how he’s cutting regulations at a record rate. About how he has a war on regulations.
My concern, as a person who has been complaining for much of my life about the choking effect on personal freedom of excessive regulation, is whether this is style over substance.
Let’s look back at Governor Mike Huckabee’s campaign statements about tax cutting. He’d talk about cutting taxes 90 or more times when he was running for President, but his opponents would remind people that taxes went up in Arkansas while he was Governor. It was absolutely true that he’d cut taxes, but the true issue was the size of those cuts. If someone gives you ninety pennies at different times (tax cuts) and then takes a $10 bill from you just once (tax increases) you’re out $8.10.
The same holds true for regulation. A series of small regulatory cuts, no matter how many of them, may not make up for one large regulatory increase.
In the matter of personal freedom, “regulation” is effectively interchangeable with “reduction in liberty”. The function of deregulation must always be increasing liberty. If, at the end of the day, the citizen does not have greater freedom of action, deregulation was merely for show.
Power needs to be transferred from bureaucrats to the governed. If it is consolidated from a series of lesser bureaucrats to a high-level politician, the people are still being controlled.
The latest example of this comes from Commissioner Scott Gottlieb of the FDA, who on Wednesday gave vaping/e-cigarette companies an ultimatum.
The FDA launched its boldest move yet to combat vaping by teens and avoid a new generation of nicotine addicts, threatening to pull flavored e-cigarettes from five manufacturers if the companies don’t submit plans to curb the use of their products.Politico
The agency gave e-cigarette maker Juul and four other companies 60 days to submit plans or face regulatory consequences.
The FDA has stated clearly that they consider the use of vaping products among teens as an epidemic.
Now, I wish to make one thing clear: I’m not a smoker. I’ve never been a smoker, never wanted to be one. I’ve never vaped. At first blush, it would seem that I have no personal stake in this decision at all. That would be true, save for the fact that I do have a personal stake in freedom.
The reason cited to prevent teen smoking was simple: health. Inhaling tobacco products was convincingly demonstrated to have negative effects on smokers, and the addictive nature of the nicotine made quitting difficult.
None of those health risks are shown to exist with vaping. The possibility of addiction is still present; if anything, it’s higher because users can adjust the nicotine content higher than in standard cigarettes. The carcinogenic and tarry byproducts of tobacco (and marijuana) smoke are not present, however.
What we’re left with is an addictive, pleasurable activity. That’s it. If one considers the endorphin release that exercise produces, the same basic description of vaping can be used to describe running, bicycling, swimming, and working out in the gym. Vaping is far less dangerous than snowboarding and skiing, which kill more than 40 people a year but remain legal activities.
It doesn’t matter. These companies have less than two months to present a plan to the FDA director explaining how they’re going to diminish their market share and possibly put themselves out of business, or they will be shut down.
This is the latest in a series of actions designed by the Administration to “pick winners and losers” in business. The mechanics of deregulation is slight of hand designed to convince the rubes that they are somehow on the side of freedom. They are not. They are authoritarians, and it should be recognized.