The recent announcement from Arch Coal that it will be laying off hundreds of Kentucky workers has reignited a favorite strawman of wealthy business interests: regulation.
While corporations and supposedly free-market capitalists love to demonize regulations as always bad for business, in reality most of them actually support and benefit from many regulations themselves.
Kentucky opthalmologists have fought tooth and nail to try and keep regulations that prevented optometrists from performing certain eye procedures.
There are legitimate health concerns involved in the debate, but let’s be honest: opthalmologists fought as hard as they did because there was money in it for them if they maintained a monopoly on the eye procedures.
In that case, an industry wanted regulation because it was good for its business.
Just down the road in Garrard County is a company called Mine Shields that has positioned itself to be the only company in the entire nation manufacturing mine refuge chambers up to snuff with industry regulations.
With mines across the U.S. required — by regulations from the Mine Safety and Health Administration — to install refuge chambers, Mine Shields has essentially all of its hopes for future profits tied to regulation.
The truth is that industries only hate regulations when they get in the way of profits.
And they absolutely love regulations that give them an advantage over the competiton, whether that advantage is deserved or not.
As a society, we should never base our regulations on what businesses want, because businesses will always want less competition and more profit, and will always push for regulations that accomplish those goals.
Such regulations stand in direct opposition to free-market principals.
Our regulations should be based on promoting competition, driving innovation and protecting the world we live in.
If such regulations benefit business, then so be it; if they hurt business, we should weigh the costs and benefits. But we should never try to pretend all regulations should be eliminated. No matter what they say, even the coal industry doesn’t want that.