What Is Regulation?
To understand the ethical dimension of regulation, in particular the relationship between regulation and human liberty, we must first define what we mean by regulation. Many regulatory critics fixate on the directly coercive power exercised by administrative agencies. They find that this power necessarily limits liberty, because the only liberty that matters under this conception of regulation is the liberty threatened by the directly coercive power exercised by administrative agencies. In this essay, I explore what we see when we take a broader view. When we acknowledge that humans control—that is, regulate— other humans through a huge array of conduct beyond directly coercive action by administrative agencies, we can appreciate how badly we will go astray, from the perspective of human liberty, if we direct our negativity exclusively toward directly coercive action by administrative agencies. To the extent that the ethical objection to regulation is grounded in human liberty, we must look at all aspects of regulation—what it does to liberate the people it is meant to help, as well as what it does to constrain the people it is meant to control—in figuring out its ethical implications.Subscribe to GJLPP