Thursday, November 20, 2003

Dean and Regulation

Howard Dean has gotten a lot of criticism for these pro-regulation remarks:
The former Vermont governor said he would reverse the trend toward deregulation pursued by recent presidents -- including, in some respects, Bill Clinton -- to help restore faith in scandal-plagued U.S. corporations and better protect U.S. workers.

In an interview around midnight Monday on his campaign plane with a small group of reporters, Dean listed likely targets for what he dubbed as his "re-regulation" campaign: utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Dean did not rule out "re-regulating" the telecommunications industry, too.
Most of the criticism, however, seems to focus on the mere fact that Dean appeared to favor "re-regulation." One can have a reasonable debate over how much regulation is needed, what its terms should be, whether complete regulation is better than deregulating half-way, and so forth.

But Dean's comment about telecommunications isn't even comprehensible. Telecommunications is overwhelmingly regulated right now, as much as or more than any other American industry. I can't even imagine how anyone could think that there is an undersupply of regulation in that particular field. (The Telecommunications Act of 1996 has sometimes been described as "deregulation," but nothing could be further from reality.)

Put it this way: If Dean suggested that he disagreed with a proposal to privatize Social Security, various people might disagree with him, but it would at least be a debate over a meaningful subject. If, on the other hand, Dean announced that he wanted to repeal Social Security privatization and start using federal funding again, well, one wouldn't even know how to make sense of such a remark.


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