Leftists can certainly point to irresponsible behavior on the part of many executives at financial institutions--behavior that might seem to bolster claims that more regulation is required to prevent another financial meltdown. While we can bring the broader context to bear--the fact that financial institutions are and were among the most heavily regulated in the nation--how do we refute the specific claim that deregulation caused the financial collapse?
Fortunately, Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has provided us some specifics that completely destroy such claims. She is cited in an article on Real Clear Politics:
In short, not only was there no massive deregulation under Bush, regulations were expanded dramatically. Allegations of deregulation are a complete myth.
"Between fiscal year 2001 and fiscal year 2009," she writes, "outlays on regulatory activities, adjusted for inflation, increased from $26.4 billion to an estimated $42.7 billion, or 62 percent. By contrast, President Clinton increased real spending on regulatory activities by 31 percent, from $20.1 billion in 1993 to $26.4 billion in 2001."
De Rugy also points out that, adjusted for inflation, regulatory spending under the category of finance and banking were cut by 3 percent during the Bill Clinton years and rose 29 percent under the imagined Bush deregulation binge.
But the actual facts haven't stopped politicians and pundits from demanding more government control. It would be easy to blame incompetence for their misguided demands, for we certainly have abundant evidence--both theoretical and practical--of their incompetence. The truth however, is far more ominous.
The very nature of regulations force individuals to act contrary to their own judgment. Some regulations prohibit actions that regulators deem harmful. Other regulations encourage actions that regulators deem beneficial. Either way, regulators compel individuals to act as they--the regulators--desire.
The results are predictable. Regulations establish a clash of values. The goals of regulators necessarily conflict with those they are regulating, which is precisely why regulations must be enforced at the point of a gun. Certainly there are some in the regulated industry who view regulations as beneficial, but any short-term gains will ultimately be wiped out. Witness the collapse of AIG and other financial giants.
Having abandoned principles, government officials cannot see this connection. They can only look at the moment, and when they do not like what they see, declare that action is necessary. And the action that they invariably propose involves more coercion.
This of course, is their goal. Government officials want more power, and ultimately absolute power. They do not want individuals acting by their own choice in the pursuit of their own values. Today they create myths for the purpose of winning public support for their power grab. And when they are successful, they won't need public support, for they will have the means to demand obedience, or else. Sadly, they are well on their way.