What Would Libertarian Government Look Like? CEI Offers Some Steps to Find Out

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 12, 2013 – Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote in a recent column that if true small-government, libertarian policies are the best way to organize society, then why doesn’t a single country on Earth embrace this framework.

At the Competitive Enterprise Institute, we say, “Let’s give it a try.” How about, as we survey a country in which the IRS is targeting right-of-center groups, the National Security Agency is monitoring our phone calls and the government is tapping phone lines of reporters, we stop and consider a few steps to reduce the size, cost and scope of government?

CEI lays out a few such steps in Avoiding the Regulatory Cliff: A Bipartisan Agenda to Restore Limited Government and Revive America’s Economy. The publication, produced every two years, lays out practical steps Congress can take to reduce the burden of government, curb costly regulations and increase liberty, prosperity and economic vitality.

Some items within the publication, such as an essay that calls for rejecting the precautionary principle as a threat to technological progress, require a change of thought. Others, such as a piece that calls for improving food safety by promoting consumer awareness and choice, require a change in how government informs us about research, risk and other matters. Others, such as a piece on ending bailouts and government ownership in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, General Motors, AIG and other entities, require a change in approach.

But many amount to reforming regulations and how they are developed and keeping citizens in mind when promulgating the rules and laws we all must live by.

For instance, Wayne Crews, CEI’s Vice President for Policy and Director of Technology Studies, lays out six achievable steps to slow the regulatory juggernaut:

• Establish a bipartisan Regulatory Reduction Commission to survey and purge outdated or poorly functioning rules.

• Develop a sunsetting schedule for new regulations and agencies.

• Approve major regulations with an up-or-down vote.

• Publish a regulatory report card alongside the federal budget.

• Require agencies to report costs so Congress can measure effectiveness.

• Have agencies and the Office of Management and Budget rank rules’ effectiveness and recommend the least-effective for elimination.

Other suggestions would guide legislative initiatives, such as:

• Curb crop subsidies, separate nutrition and energy from the farm bill and end the sugar program.

• Streamline testing of new medicines and medical devices, so new treatments can reach patients quicker, and protect intellectual property to encourage pharmaceutical innovation.

• End corporate welfare in all forms – subsidies, tariffs, regulations that favor the powerful, the Export-Import Bank, the Economic Development Administration and others.

• Roll back Sarbanes-Oxley to make it easier for startups to go public.

• Rethink anti-consumer antitrust legislation.

• Reject content regulation on TV and other media outlets.

• Privatize passenger rail, encourage private investment in freight rail and liberalize air travel.

• Spend money collected for highways on highways, not mass transit; and embrace tolling so highway users pay their fair share.

• Bring back private contractors for airport security. They did not fail on 9/11, and the Transportation Security Administration has been a disaster from the start.

The publication includes nearly 70 pages of productive solutions to roll back the overgrown regulatory state, and thus provide certainty and the proper incentives to American businesses and entrepreneurs, who are the true engines of our nation’s prosperity.

“Our task is to get Congress to act like market-growing gardeners rather than blueprint-writing engineers,” said Lawson Bader, president of CEI. “The better role for public policy is to ensure underlying rules of the game that maintain the openness and dynamism of established markets and encourage the evolution of decentralized, self-organizing markets where they do not yet exist.”

>> Read Avoiding the Regulatory Cliff: A Bipartisan Agenda to Restore Limited Government and Revive America’s Economy here.