A Subtle Distinction on Government Problem Solving


I recently came across this story on regulation in Ohio, and the statement the Republican Senate president, Larry Obhof seems broadly applicable and worth sharing:

Ohio has nearly 250,000 regulatory restrictions in its code, according to research from George Mason University. The study’s authors say this holds back economic growth for industries like manufacturing and health care.

Republican Senate president Larry Obhof says he wants to take a broad look at Ohio’s code to see what they can do to scale back these regulations. He adds that a mindset change is needed for people in the legislature and state agencies.

“Who start the day looking for problems to solve and trying to solve those, and what I’d like to see is a reset where they start the day and some significant number of them are saying can I find a burden that we don’t need that we can get rid of,” said Obhof.

This gets right to the subtle (and detrimental) shift in Americans’ attitude and, perhaps, a chief dividing line between ideologies.  One view is that government exists to solve people’s problems; another is that government exists to remove a limited number of problems from people’s path.

When the goal is to remove problems (like foreign invasion, inadequate basic infrastructure, and so on), the emphasis is much more securely on avoiding causing additional problems in the process.  When we make government a more active participant in the solving of problems, unintended consequences can be written off on account of good intentions — “nobody can solve everything, but at least we tried.”

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And when government is a problem solver, there is no boundary.  It should try to solve every problem it can.  When government is just a mechanism to take a few big problems off the table for the public at large, the debate becomes whether something is a problem or an area in which freedom makes it a challenge for the people to resolve among themselves.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I think the problem runs deeper than “mindset”. “regulators” are hired to regulate. That is their job, and that is what they will do. How can they report “we found nothing to do”. “Legislators” legislate, that is what they do. Plus they can report to the voters “I sponsored 438 bills”. They have to give the impression of “doing something”. After they have “done something” the fall out is someone else’s problem. Perhaps reduce the number of legislators so that they don’t have “time on their hands”?

  • Mike678

    The free market works well. It’s not perfect, but it has worked better than most others. As most know, systems are complex, and changes, especially “feel good / do something” changes are more likely to negatively affect the system than improve it. Give it time….

    • Rhett Hardwick

      My opposition to regulation is not total. A “licensed” plumber tells me that at least at sometime “taken the knowledge” as was once required of London Cab Drivers. I don not mind that steam pressure is regulated. But, once the regulatory process is put in place, who puts on the brakes. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?