Why Are People Angry?

Chidem Kurdas

Straitjacket

There’s an easy answer and a deeper but less obvious explanation—with variations on both. For a significant part of the population, good jobs have disappeared and incomes are stagnant or shrinking. That’s enough to raise the ire of anyone – whether a follower of Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump – who notices that in the meanwhile other groups have done well and look sleekly prosperous.

And this is not just about Wall Street bankers; notice how wealthy Hillary and Bill Clinton have become.

But why is the economy not generating jobs and incomes as it used to? There you get into multiple and intricate causes. Among these are government actions. Some researchers focus on taxes, some on regulation. Taxing or regulating, federal and state governments loom large in the economy.

The regulatory system is not new but it has reached a level unprecedented in America. From my book Ponzi Regulation: “The regulatory governance system we live in is a result of arguments and beliefs that go back 80 years or more. Back in the time these ideas were espoused with great enthusiasm as the cure for age-old ills. Now that the results are in, that enthusiasm has dimmed a notch, though the vision of a regulatory state that solves a vast array of economic and social problems retains its hold on many. …

This follows a pattern observed in other areas by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin: ‘The history of thought and culture is …a changing pattern of great liberating ideas which inevitably turn into suffocating straitjackets, and so stimulate their own destruction ….’

The regulatory state imposes an all-too-real straitjacket on society. It has become a vast waste of resources and a tool for organized small groups – foremost among them government bureaucrats and their cronies – to exploit the rest of the population. Instead of making society more efficient and egalitarian as promised, it is a source of inefficiency and inequity. ….

While the growth of the regulatory system and the bureaucratic powers to run it are intentional – advocated by lawyers, policy analysts, pundits; legislated by Congress – its consequences are to a large extent unintended. One side effect is the increasingly convoluted character of the system. Nobody openly favors layer upon layer of arcane rules, yet such has been the trend for the past century. Regulations, like tax laws, become ever more rococo even as generation after generation of would-be reformers keep calling for simplicity and transparency.”

Supposed reformers fiddle with the straitjacket –put on a show of tackling the problem, as President Obama has on occasion – while the system becomes ever more suffocating. Besides regulating the breath out of the economy, the endless impositions are enough to tie the mildest citizen into knots.

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