Little disagreement exists on the need for the government to regulate products for consumer safety. However, when does regulation stop protecting the consumer and begin harming innovation and entrepreneurship? At an AEI event on Wednesday, panelists argued for balance in the regulatory code based on the negative experiences of many business owners across America.
Rachel Holt, a representative of Uber Inc., discussed Uber's driver base, which is predominately drawn from lower-middle-class households. Holt argued that unnecessary regulation has threatened to put the company's drivers out of work. Next, Randall Hertzler presented his experience selling handmade toys supplied by artisans that craft small numbers of each toy. He recounted the excessive cost to the manufacturers from product safety laws, costs that are shouldered more easily by large-scale manufacturers.
Dana Berliner from the Institute for Justice pointed out that many of these issues are tied to the fact that the court system is inactive on them, refusing to limit legislation aimed at discouraging competition. Finally, Matt Yglesias of Slate pointed out that some pro-competitive policies do in fact favor larger businesses at the expense of their smaller competitors. He concluded that the US political landscape would change in favor of more competition if the social safety net were larger and more reliable, encouraging risk taking and entrepreneurship.
What do artisan toymakers, African American hair braiders, and smartphone-based limousine services have in common? They have all been victims of collusion between big business and big government. For example, DC politicians tried to outlaw Uber, an alternative to taxis, and Mattel supported toy-safety rules that threatened to eliminate mom-and-pop competitors.
"Consumer protection" regulation often protects large incumbent businesses from competition more than it protects consumers from harm. Such anticompetitive regulation kills entrepreneurship, robs consumers of choice, and fosters corruption and cronyism.
Please join us for a discussion of regulation, entrepreneurship, competition, and political influence.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.