Just the other day, an NPR reporter interviewed Dr. Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at ARI, in connection with a story (audio here) arising out of the Boston terrorist bombing and the chemical factory explosions in the town of West, Texas. According to the report, Democrats were busy reminding everyone that opponents of “big government” would leave police and regulators unable to remedy or prevent such catastrophes.
Here’s the published quote, selected from a much longer interview: “They [regulations] impose an enormous cost on companies and all individual Americans of the amount of paperwork and regulations that you have to go through when you’re not doing anything wrong.”
I think it’s worth amplifying on that true and insightful comment with two points of context:
Contra the setup of the story, “big vs. small government” is not the best way to frame the debate. The real issue is “the proper role of government,” a question on which ARI differs from both conservatives and liberals. We are in favor of proper government functions like the police force, a function which in a laissez-faire society would not be reduced. But we would entirely eliminate improper functions, like wealth redistribution programs and regulations that burden the innocent.
There’s a conservative line that “government costs too much”—as if a high price tag should discourage Americans from pursuing justice and saving lives. Dr. Ghate’s point differs from that. The tremendous costs are important, of course, but only in the larger context that regulations penalize the innocent, and that preventive law is an evil that infringes upon individual rights.