A Plea To Liberals: Hurt 'Em In A Good Way. Overall.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

There’s been a lot of talk about “the Republican Bubble” lately, and rightfully so.  But a lot of my liberal pals have been discussing the Republicans high-handedly, as though liberals have a one-to-one correlation with thoughts and reality.
I sort of mentioned this yesterday, when I said, “One of the problems that liberals have is that they often think that businesses are magic money-making machines.”  To flesh that thought out further, while conservatives generally think of the market as a continual force for good, liberals think of the market as an unkillable Golden Goose.  Doesn’t matter how many regulations you force companies to jump through, or how many taxes you lay on them – they’re business!  They’ll be all right.  What matters is the people who work for those businesses!
But every new regulation has a very real cost.  Every new tax puts some poor bastard out of business because he can’t compete any more.  Every new nice thing that businesses are forced to do via legislation for their employees means that someone can’t afford to hire a new worker – or may have to lay people off to make his quotas.
And these are not evil.  Because the other liberal bias is to think that any decision based on cash is evil.  Any layoff, any cut in benefits, any restructuring is just a greedy jerk trying to stick his nose in the trough.  But there are also good businessmen, people who care, people who get fucking ulcers because they’ve looked at their books and they can’t afford to keep ten people on-board any more, they have to let two go.
There are hard limits in business.  And whenever you make it harder for someone to do business, you’re hurting someone’s livelihood. And that’s not cool.  A guy’s sunk his entire life into making his own business, investing his life savings to try to make it in America… and suddenly thanks to a flurry of paperwork and incremental taxes nibbling him to death like ducks, he has to go to my wife and declare bankruptcy.
That’s a bad situation for anyone to be in.
Which is not to say that regulation is bad.  You need it to keep businesses in check, because otherwise we’re back to child labor and sawdust in our bread.
But liberals, think of regulation and taxes as surgery – you’re going to be doing some initial damage, and risking doing more permanent injury, in order to rectify a problem.  It’s something that may do more harm than good, if you’re not careful.  A poorly written law can bury someone in useless paperwork, increasing costs across the board and not actually fixing what you wanted to.
With every new law you’re affecting people’s lives just as surely as you are cutting welfare benefits or cutting back on libraries – you’re making it harder for these businesses to get by.  And they will not automatically just get by.  Some of them may go under.  Some people may lose their jobs.  Some people may be heartbroken.
I’m not saying not to do it.  I’m saying not to do it lightly.


  1. ilya
    Nov 13, 2012

    But then there are cases like pollution regulations. The industry will resist and fight and claim that it will lose billions. But then the Clean Air Act is passed and it turns out the costs of adjust are lower than expected, profits are not really impacted, and new jobs are created. Not to mention the cleaner air. Just an all-around win-win. People/organizations hate change.
    Sorry for being so hand-wavy but far too often business interests will overstate how much damage new regulations will do.

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 14, 2012

      And all too often, liberals will overstate how effective these methods will be. Both sides lie.

  2. Nancy K
    Nov 13, 2012

    Hi Ferrett,
    I used to follow you back from LiveJournal. Saw your Coffee article on Jezebel and tracked you down here.
    In response to this, being inundated with a lot of liberal sources, I will say that most liberals aren’t for regulation of “little” businesses. Meaning, privately held businesses who genuinely are out to do whatever their mission statement is (mowing lawns, representing people, making chinaware, etc.).
    A lot of liberals are against big business. Meaning the big companies that everyone’s heard of (Coca-Cola, Bank of America, etc.). These organizations are perceived as being all about shareholders, their profits, and that’s about it. They are seen as having little to no regard for their employees, their health or having a semblance of compassion. These are the big companies many liberals see as needing regulation, their top officers are over-paid, and they “buy votes” by donating in excess to political motives.
    Most liberals want more regulation here. They don’t want regulation to hurt the little businesses, the ones that are honest, and the ones which care about employees. Of course, the problem then is discerning between the two….

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 14, 2012

      I agree. But the big businesses, though more damaging, also provide more overall employeement. They’re callous, which is precisely why you have to be careful in shaping their rewards and punishments, because there’s no morality shaping it. If it’s cheaper to lay off a thousand employees rather than give health care, well, guess what they’re going to do? And you need to take that into account.

  3. Jericka
    Nov 13, 2012

    Laws have unintended consequences, whether it is making alcohol illegal, or regulating a business, or changing a tax. Something somewhere wasn’t taken into account and the changes went beyond where people thought it would go.
    One of the things I miss about the Republican party that was, is the science based arguments. Of course Democrats also have been known to not pay attention to the science too, but right now? Republicans seem a bit less willing to go with the scientific method than most Democrats.
    It usually takes a lot of pushing to get safety laws changed. Sometimes the laws or regulations get mangled by special interests, and sometimes they are just plain worded badly.
    It would be so much easier if we could just trust that our milk is unadulterated and the fire door will be unlocked during business hours! People cut corners on safety or truthfulness all the time, out of greed or laziness or …I don’t even know. I know we can’t outlaw death, but, poisoning the water or misrepresenting some thing that you are selling as safe when it is not should just be obviously unacceptable.

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