Regulations treat people as animals

By Tibor Machan: Freedom New Mexico columnist

A recent New York Times carried an item that is of some political-philosophical interest on the nature of a free society’s system of laws. In particular, it related to the discussion of whether public policy ought to be addressed pragmatically — that is, issue by issue, with no regard for general principles — or based on some system of ideas.

In “The Week in News,” there was a report on something one Elizabeth Kolbert wrote on The New Yorker Web site concerning how Barack Obama’s choice for a new energy secretary, Steven Chu, once “established the country’s first refrigerator-efficiency standards” back in California, in the face of industry opposition, and how the decision is now judged a roaring success.

“The following decade, standards were imposed for refrigerators nationwide. Since then, the size of the average American refrigerator has increased by more than 10 percent, while the price, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has been cut in half. Meanwhile, energy has dropped by two-thirds.”

Ergo, it might be suggested, government imposition of standards (and, more generally, government regulation) is a jolly good thing!

Perhaps pragmatists would find this a decisive argument in favor of government regulations — or at least quite a few of such regulations. But I am not a pragmatist. I tend to approach the issue of whether government regulations are proper in a principled fashion, even if in some cases such regulations are, arguably,