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What Does Regulation Regulate?

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On December 22, 2008 @ 6:15 am In Bailouts,Legal,Regulation | Comments Disabled

Here’s one of the simple truisms that gets lost in the political (i.e., bumper sticker) discussions.

Don’t regulate the free markets! Don’t interfere with innovation! Don’t stifle incentives!

What bullshit.

One of the best ways to win a debate is to control the language used. This was one of the elements George Orwell was discussing in 1984 [1], and why the language in the novel was degraded to phrases like “double plus good.” All nuance was dismissed. He who controls the language controls the political economy is what Orwell was saying. In modern times, its done not with boot-jacks and guns, but with catchphrases and clever marketing. Its not as heavy handed, its just more insidious.

When we discuss “Regulations,” we are talking about regulating human behavior. And that behavior can range from following misplaced incentives to falsifying accounting data to overtly legal but destructive actions — like putting people into loans they knew (or reasonably should have known) were likely to default.

What a terrible sham the no “regulation cry” has been. It is really a vote for no rules against illegal and/or criminal behavior . . .


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[1] 1984: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451524934/thebigpictu09-20

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