Last week I posted a piece about the need to scale back our dependence on regulations and policy solutions to allow people to be more creative in solving the problems that face us. I suspect the piece was viewed by some as a libertarian rant, but I don’t consider myself a libertarian. I do think we tend to overdo it when it comes to regulation, but I’m not in favor of anarchy.
I wasn’t planning on writing this morning, but three things caught my attention and I think allow me to elaborate on my regulatory views.
The first was a report on NPR that it is once again legal in Seattle to grow vegetables in the parking strip in front of your home without a permit. A full article was reported here in the Seattle Times on July 25th. I’m sure when this permitting requirement was passed it was done with a sincere desire to advance the public good. But thankfully, the folks up in Seattle have recognized that this is a regulation that they are better off without. Greater freedom to decide how to use one’s parking strip turns out to be in the best interest of everyone.
The second piece I saw informed me that it is now legal to harvest rainwater that falls on your roof in Colorado with a catchment system. Previously this was considered water theft and could have subjected you to a $500 fine. It has been reported here on NPR. Water policy can be headache inducing even to experts, but this one seems pretty simple. Why shouldn’t people be able to manage the water that falls on their property for their own use? It will ultimately be used on their lawn or find it’s way back into the water cycle: they just get the use of it first, without relying on externally managed infrastructure. More sustainable? Clearly.
Usually when you advocate for less regulation, you are suspected of being in the pocket of “Big Business” and are simply looking for a way to more profitably rape the planet and exploit the masses. But let’s face it: in our mind-numbingly complex regulatory world the big guys can get away with most anything they want. They can afford to find the loopholes. The US has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world. But US corporations typically pay less in taxes as a percentage of income than their foreign peers. Frankly I’d consider myself more populist than libertarian (granting that these aren’t mutually exclusive); I want the breaks for the “little guy.” I think these two examples are both great case studies for the ways in which a policy heavy approach to life impacts regular people and hampers progress.
So can a conservative approach to regulatory policy advance a progressive vision? These two examples say they can, but there are many more. These just happen to be a couple that found me before 8am on a Monday morning.
Oh, right… the third thing! My friend Jessica Arciniega posted a quote from Ghandi this morning:
All progress is gained through mistakes and their rectification. No good comes fully fashioned, out of God’s hand, but has to be carved out through repeated experiments and repeated failures by ourselves. This is the law of individual growth. The same law controls social and political evolution also. The right to err, which means the freedom to try experiments, is the universal condition of all progress.
Substitute “The Legislature” for “God’s hand” and you have my thoughts exactly.
Thank you, Jessica. And thank you, Mahatma.